Thieving is a great way to earn money and valuable materials for crafting and other skills later on and can be a good source of money, food and seeds when you are first starting out. While there is a bit of discrepancy in training methods throughout the skill, this guide mainly assumes you are more interested in gathering materials and more useful items rather than trying to blaze towards the 99 as quickly as possible with little to no profit gain.
As a general tip, if you have access to one a Regen Brace (enchanted Onyx bracelet) will be beneficial for enduring long and arduous thieving sessions along with 22 Prayer granting access to Rapid Heal (higher prayer levels are better of course).
Thieving pairs well with agility in that having the same agility level that is required to pickpocket an NPC gives you an opportunity to receive multiple loot up to quads with no extra experience, using the following formula in this collapsible table:
However, multi-loot on items that do not stack are detrimental to faster experience gain if you are purely going for the 99, while they do provide significantly more profit and material gain for other skills; some may choose to leave their agility levels deliberately below the higher-leveled pickpocket targets if they do not want the extra materials over experience just yet. The choice is yours, just like leaving your combat level lower than your pickpocket target's for an easy one-click attempt instead of having to right click them first.
Levels 1-5 : Men and Women
You don't have any choice at this level, you are limited to pickpocketing the men and women found around /v/scape with the most easily accessible ones being in Lumbridge. You will receive 3 gp per successful pickpocket along with 18 exp. It may be slow at first with the NPCs catching you often, but after you gain a few levels you'll notice a decrease in your chances of being caught.
After about 25 successful pickpockets, you'll be at level 5 and are now ready to move on.
Levels 5-20/27/38 : Baker's Stall
Now that you are level 5, the best option for you is to head over to Ardougne and begin stealing from the bakers' stall. While the baker won't catch you; various guards, paladins or heroes may come and attack you. It is easy to position yourself so that they are unable to reach you allowing you to continually steal without interruption. You will receive various pieces of cake, chocolate cakes and bread from the bakers stall. Depending on your needs, you have 2 options. You can either bank the loot to use as a source of food for thieving later or sell them back to the baker for some extra cash (he only accepts full cakes, chocolate cake slices and bread).
After about 115 successful bakery heists, you will reach 20 thieving.
If you'd like to stay until you can go to the seed stalls, from level 5 you'll need about 259 successes to reach level 27.
If you're more interested in experience/cakes or farming isn't your thing, the Baker's stall actually gives more exp than the Seed stalls do so if you like you can stay here until level 38, which from level 5 will take around 833 successes.
At level 20 your options increase a bit. You can now pickpocket both male and female H.A.M. members at the H.A.M. hideout which are a great source of level 1 clues and miscellaneous vendor trash, or continue stealing from the Baker's stall. Remember that you have less of a chance to fail a H.A.M. member pickpocket if you're wearing a full set of their robes.
Levels 27-38 : Seed Stalls
Even if you are not interested in Farming, the two Seed stalls in Draynor Village provide you with fast exp and decent profit if you get good seeds. If you are interested in farming, stealing from the stalls and especially the Master Farmer later on are essential to leveling it.
From level 27 each successful seed plunder provides 22.5 exp, meaning you'll need 919 successes to get to 38.
Levels 38-50/72/75 : Master FarmersMaster Farmers in Draynor are more straightforward than the two Seed stalls are, as the farmer doesn't move or need to respawn every few seconds and carries the same inventory-filling trick rule as the seed stalls. When pickpocketing this guy you will need to start burning your food supply pretty heavily, as he hits for 3 on a stun and you will be stunned quite frequently at level 38. Hope you kept those cakes from earlier if you started out training this skill with nothing.
Also when stealing seeds, a good strategy is to put only good seeds/the ones most valuable to you in your inventory and fill up the rest of the slots with junk - you still get exp for each successful attempt and the seeds you have on you will stack normally, but you won't gain junk seeds that you aren't interested in. This way you won't be loaded with more potatoes than the tard HQ in your highschool. Foods like Wine or Curry allow you to heal without freeing up an inventory space if you can access them, otherwise fill the rest of your inventory with junk and go to the bank to heal when necessary instead. The picture is only a guideline, you may add or omit a few things depending on your needs.
96.75 exp per proper pickpocket means that from level 38, you'll need about 733 successes to reach level 50.
Now your options really start expanding more, but your growth rate might also slow down. If you really love farming and prefer getting more seeds and less exp, you can continue pickpocketing the Master Farmer until either level 72, or 75, you'll learn why those two numbers are the farmer's stopping point in a bit. Otherwise if you want a better exp rate and uncut gems as loot instead, look at the Rogue's Den section below.
If you want to keep going until level 72, you'll need a total of 8,980 successful pickpockets from level 38.
If you wish to stop at 75, starting from level 38 requires a whopping 12,196 successes. Nice autism but seriously this is not recommended
Levels 50-72/75: Rogue's Den SafesOnce you hit level 50 you can head over to the Rogue's Den lobby located under the trapdoor in the bar in Burthorpe, the quickest way of getting there being a Games Necklace teleport to the Burthorpe games room, walking up two flights of stairs then running south to the bar, or teleporting to Falador and walking northwest through Taverly.
Once inside the den lobby you need to purchase a Stethoscope from Martin Thwait (the thieving skillcape master) for 10 gp, it increases your chance of cracking the wall safes significantly so keep it in your inventory (note that you need both 50 thieving AND agility to shop from him, and the stethoscope is untradable, so you must get your agility up if you wish to use the safes). Go on either side of the middle structure and alternate back and forth between cracking the two safes on one of its walls. You'll also need a bit more food at this point too, luckily there is a banker right near the safes as well as an eternally everlasting fire where somebody might be cooking food available to sell if you don't have much (it is the best cooking training spot after all).
Your possible loot from cracking the safes are a small amount of gp and uncut sapphires/emeralds/rubies/diamonds, which show up rarer in order from left to right.
Pictured of an example of loot that you might get from 50-72 thieving at Rogue's Den.
157.5 exp per proper crack means a decently fast experience rate, and 5,066 needed successes if you'd like to stop at 72 from 50. Alternatively it takes 7,041 successes if you keep going until 75 from 50 though this is less recommended as you'll see in a second.
Levels 72-75/80 : Lathas Chests and PaladinsYou're doing well, but it's not over yet. Now if you'll go to the second floor of King Lathas' castle in East Ardougne, you'll notice two locked chests on both sides of the "fork" in the castle structure. To get to the chests you'll have to bring a lock-pick with you for the doors, but you can simply buy one from Rogue's Den or pickpocket Desert Bandits.
Successfully cracking these chests when you search for traps always rewards an uncut sapphire, raw shark, adamant ore, 1,000 gp, as well as 1,125 exp. The loot is good, but the they don't respawn for another two minutes so the exp just from the chests is poor. While you wait for the chests to respawn (they take 2 minutes), you'll pickpocket all the Paladins in the area and go to bank when your inventory is full. Paladins award 80 gp or up to 2 chaos runes as well as 341.4375 exp on a successful pickpocket.
Alternatively you may wish to just bring some things to High Alch as you wait for the chests to respawn and simply ignore the paladins, the choice is yours.
Here is an example of the loot received from level 72-75 at Lathas Chests and Paladins. Double loot was active on the paladins.
Due to having to randomly pickpocket paladins as you wait for the chests to respawn, gauging the amount of successes isn't realistic but it'll go by fast enough until 75. You can keep going until 80 too but skipping gnomes is a bad idea and extremely not recommended. Also note due to frequent questions on this topic, if you encounter a bug where the chests seem to permanently stay open then simply log out and then back in and it should be fixed - this is a temporary solution that works until the bug is ironed out properly.Alternatively you may start Paladins right at 70, keep going on them until 72, and then do the mix of Lathas Chests and Paladins until 75. Depending on your luck however it may not be a good idea to start paladins right at 70. Pictured below is an example of loot for that method, without Double Loot.
Levels 75-80/99 : GnomesThis is where the good loot really starts rolling in. Gnomes are located in a lot of places but the best area to pickpocket them are on the Grand Tree's second floor, several of which you'll find right next to a lot of bank booths. The best way to get there is to take the glider from Al-Kharid to the Grand Tree's fourth floor (requires completion of The Grand Tree), teleporting to Ardougne (requires completion of Plague City) and running northwest, teleporting to Camelot and going far to the west, or Ring of Dueling teleporting to Castle Wars and running far to the north through Ardougne.
You have chances to get either Fire Orbs, Gold ore, Earth runes, 300 gp, or a king worm/swamp toad (the legs of which are used in Herblore, the worm is low-tier food that is better off dropped than eaten) as loot. It does not matter whether you pickpocket a gnome man, woman, or child, just use whichever one is currently closest to a bank booth.
This is an example of the loot you can receive from levels 75-80 at Gnomes without double loot.
446.625 exp per pickpocket means that you'll need only around 1,736 successes to reach level 80. Some people may choose to even stay at gnomes until 99 as they consistently give a better exp rate than Heroes do at the cost of slightly worse material gain.
If that is your choice, then you'll need a staggering 26,474 successes from level 75 to reach level 99.
Levels 80-99 : HeroesHeroes are the endgame for any smart thief, with a successful pickpocket netting you either few Death runes, Blood runes, uncut Diamonds, Fire Orbs, Gold ore, jug of wine, or a stack of 300 gp. They are found in East Ardougne near the Zoo/marketplace/south bank. At this point a constant source of good food is needed as they hit for 4hp on a stun and you will be caught quite often, I put a dent of around 2,000 in my lobster stack from 80-99.
Pictured above is an example of loot that you might get from 80-99 thieving - keep in mind that this particular loot showcase did not take advantage of multi-loot, and omitted wine jugs/cash.
Pictured above is another example of loot from 80-99 thieving, this time showcasing Double Loot. Note that you can only start double looting heroes at level 90 and up, the picture just shows the total from 80-99.
An advanced tactic while pickpocketing them is to deck yourself out in the max Prayer bonus gear (a full vestment set including the robe top, bottom, mitre, stole, and crozier, god book of any type and a trimmed skillcape/vestment cloak if you do not have two 99s) with a Regen brace and turn the Rapid Heal prayer on, the prayer will last an incredibly long time and save you a lot of food in the long run when combined with the Regen brace. A prayer altar is just about 20 spaces away from the hero spawn too, so you essentially have infinite prayer as you pickpocket them.
At 614.75 exp per success, from level 80 it will take 13,560 Hero pickpockets to reach level 99 thieving! This may seem like a lot but the exp rate is lightning-fast.
The road to 99 thieving isn't as difficult as most other skills can be due to comfy profits and great exp rates, but in total it'll take you about a week or so of straight grinding to get there from level 1. You can even get there faster if you really crank your autism levels up, though there's not really any rush.
Finally at the end of it all you will no doubt come out of this skill with significant gains, even if you don't wish to just sell all your materials for cash and want to use them yourself instead, you will level up a few other skills by a great amount.
What To Do With Your Materials
If you went to Rogue's Den on your road to 99, you may be wondering what to do with all of your uncut gems. If you don't have extra gold ore/bars you can either sell the lower-tiered gems after cutting them or you can craft tons of useful teleportation jewelry like Games Necklaces and Rings of Dueling. For your rubies you can either make Rings of Forging to sell or use for yourself, or just sell the gems (other ruby jewelry isn't as useful as rings are), and for diamonds see below.
All those wine jugs you get from Heroes are not that useful aside from utilizing them as cheap food to prolong your pickpocketing trip (they heal for 11hp each), but rejoice as there is one valuable use for wine jugs which warrants banking them - thieving from the Master Farmer for seeds as stated earlier and in the Farming guide. Having empty wine jugs in your inventory won't load you up with trash seeds.
Before you smelt all that gold, it is nigh-essential that you complete the Family Crest quest, as the Goldsmithing gauntlets provided at the end of it give you a ton more smithing experience than without them. The best place to smelt is in Port Phasmatys, which requires either the completion of the Ghosts Ahoy quest to enter for free, or giving the gate guards 10 ectotokens which another player might spare for you or can be collected yourself by worshiping the Ectofuntus. If you have the nature runes and magic level, you can Superheat the ores instead for some extra magic exp.
Next, crafting all those Fire Orbs you got with blank Battlestaves gives great crafting experience and some of the best alching fodder in the game. To get Battlestaves you must purchase them from Zaff in Varrock, who stacks 100 at a time for 7,000 gp each. This may seem like a lot but a Fire Battlestaff alchs for 9,300 gp meaning you make a 2.3k profit per alch as well as 281.25 crafting experience per orb you attach to a staff. Of course, you will need a large amount of startup cash for this method and you will probably have to compete with others to buy the Battlestaves so just be patient. If you don't have enough money to buy at least 100 Battlestaves to craft+alch you could always just sell the Fire Orbs to another player.
It's recommended to craft Abyssal Bracelets with all the gold and diamonds you get if you have the crafting levels required (which you most likely will get from cutting all those gems). Why Abyssal Bracelets compared to Amulets of Power? You only get around 10 crafting experience less per brace than amulet, but when enchanted the bracelets alch for over 400 gp more with a total alch value of 2,520 compared to a power amulet's 2,115. You still get equal magic experience for enchanting either piece of jewelry too.
If you do not have the magic level required for High Level Alchemy and to enchant all that jewelry, head over to our magic skill guide to learn how to train up that high. Same for crafting for the Battlestaves, Bracelets, and cut gems.
Why Not Elves?
Elves are trash compared to Heroes, no doubt about it. They may give a bit more exp per success but their fail rates are so high even at 99 that the experience rate is awful, and they do 5 damage on a stun compared to 4 from Heroes. They also require 85 Thieving instead of 80 to pickpocket, and their location in Lletya also requires the completion of Underground Pass and Regicide to even access. Their loot is similar to heroes but marginally worse in every way - cut diamonds instead of uncut diamonds, and the more common nature runes compared to blood runes. Just don't use them to train, ever.
Viable Alternative Options
From level 32-38, if you want faster exp and are willing to take the risk the Rogues in the wilderness Rogue's Castle are 82.125 exp per successful pickpocket. Their loot includes Coins, Air Runes, Lockpicks, Iron Daggers(p++), and Gold Bars. Watch out for player killers.
From level 65-72, Watchmen located in Yanille yield good experience rates (309.375 exp per success), better than Rogue's Den Safes but at the cost of marginally worse loot - their loot is only 60gp or a loaf of bread each time. If you really really want to get to Paladins and Lathas Chests and don't care about gems and crafting exp, feel free to go for it.