As much as the motto for the FPS is, "If it moves, shoot it," the motto for the Adventure Game and Role-Playing Game is, "When it's dead, loot it." or "Take everything that isn't nailed down or too heavynote and anything that can be pried loose is not considered nailed down." (The latter advice appeared in the general strategy section of Infocom's manuals.)
When gaming began, and pretty much every game was Dungeon Crawling, this made sense. The hero was typically at least tangentially a treasure hunter, so looting ancient caverns was part of the job description.
When games started to move into different modern settings, though, the need to MacGyver up a solution to a puzzle from found items remained, and thus it stayed necessary to pick up everything you could find, especially since absolutely essential items might be Lost Forever unless you grabbed them while you still could. In populated environments, this makes the hero come off as a bit of a kleptomaniac.
Fortunately, hardly anyone ever notices. In fact, as you wander around the world, particularly in RPGs, you will repeatedly just waltz uninvited into every house in the town, smash the breakable items and loot it right before the owner's eyes, and simply be told "There are many guards in the castle."
Any game where theft is the main object (e.g. the aptly named Thief series) or thieving is a major character option will make stealing many things quite challenging, naturally enough, and there will usually be quite a few red herrings in the way of worthless items, booby traps, and so on. There will still probably be some sucker who leaves his door and chest unlocked, though.
Sometimes the logical picks up, and instead of finding loot you find underwear.
Constant theft leaves your character carrying a ludicrously unfeasible weight. Somehow, he can run, jump and fight whilst carrying five swords, an axe, three daggers, four staffs, two bows, two hundred arrows, a spare suit of armor, twenty scrolls, a dozen books, thirty potions, ten thousand gold coins and a vast assortment of miscellaneous crap.
Note that this trope refers to the player's behavior of having the irresistible urge to pick up anything that is not glued to the floor. A game might have consequences if the player is caught trying to steal an item, but if that same game allows for some other way for the player to get a hold of that item (sneaking, murdering the owner of the house, pick up everything and escape before the guards show up, etc) just so they can make fat loot to sell, then it is still subject of this trope.
A subtrope is Empty Room Psych.
For items you may obtain in this fashion, see Vendor Trash and It May Help You on Your Quest. Contrast Money for Nothing, Worthless Yellow Rocks.
If you can steal from shops, however, be aware that most shopkeepers' policy is Shoplift and Die...
See also Ninja Looting, Sticky Fingers, and Video Game Stealing.
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In The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, a Wind Tribe lady tells you she has so many Kinstones she wishes somebody would take some, explaining why you can go through her house, at least. Doesn't explain how you got away with all the thieving and vandalism you will have inevitably done already though...
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess does try to break Link's habit of taking anything that isn't nailed down and guarded by Hyrule's entire army. You can walk up to the stand selling apples and take one, but Link will say he sees better looking apples at another stand and put the one he has back. If you go to the other stand he'll say the other ones look better, so you'll never actually get an apple. Of course he still destroys every pot and loots every treasure chest he can get his hands on.
Also, Link can bust pumpkins to get Rupees (somehow). But if he keeps it up, he'll get yelled at for wasting food.
Subverted in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. When you enter the house of a wealthy man on Windfall Island you are confronted with a row of beautiful expensive vases that even sparkle! However, if you smash one, not only do you not find an item hidden within, you are also chastised by the owner of the vases and warned to not break any more. If you do, not only do you not get any rupees, you are forced to pay a fee relative to the number of vases you destroyed. If you wreck all his jars and you have no money to pay, he'll be more upset that he has to pay to replace the vases with his own money. When it comes to Link, it's best if you just act like nothing happened...◊
In The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening it is possible to steal from the shopkeeper near the starting location by making him look away and then run out. However the game immediately reminds you that stealing is bad and you should feel guilty now. If you go into the shop again, the shopkeeper will kill you with a Death Ray - also, everyone in the village will call you thief from now on. On the other hand, his prices are insane so theft is almost the only option to buy Bow and Arrow, except for excessive Money Grinding.
Also in Link's Awakening, checking book-cases and chests in people's houses will just cause Link to go "Wow! This is a nice chest!" Furthermore, Marin acts like a moral guardian in this game; if you're accompanied by her and try going through things in people's houses, she'll call you out on it, asking if you always look in other people's drawers. Break people's jars to look for money and she'll say Link is a bad boy.
The very first puzzle in The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass requires you to break into and rob the treasure vault of the kindly old man who just took you in, thus gaining an item necessary for you to travel north and kill wildlife in order to reach the town to the east. Why? Because it's better than waiting for a Broken Bridge to be fixed. In fact, when you make it to the town, the bridge is already fixed. Nice going.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword tries to break this habit as well. You can open the cabinet in your Knight Academy dorm room for a free blue Rupee, but opening other people's cabinets rewards you with the message "You really shouldn't look through other people's things..." Since the surface has been going through an apocalypse for a few thousand years at this point in the timeline, there are no houses to vandalize, but you can break the pots in an ancient temple holding something very, very important and plot-related (protip: one of them always contains a fairy). There are hardly any pots in the residential quarters of Skyloft. Even sitting in other people's chairs gets you called out (Gortram scolds you for sitting in his chair, Fi says that you really should find that thing you were looking for before you take a rest). Most notably, breaking the chandelier with the heart piece on it in the Lumpy Pumpkin gets you a hilarious facial expression from the owner, a good talking-to, and unpaid work until you pay the thing off.
However, you can still fall asleep in anyone's bed without anyone caring, so this Link is less kleptomaniac than narcoleptic.
There is an actual canon justification for the kleptomania, however, from Minish Cap. Link isn't actually stealing anything other than the pots themselves; there are tiny gnomes invisible to adults that hide money, useful items, and treasure under grass and bushes, in pots, and in chests for heroes to find, including pots, chests, and bushes belonging to other people.
Lampshaded in the PS2/Xbox "remake" of The Bard's Tale, right towards the beginning. After opening his first chest, the narrator will comment on how horrible it is that The Bard is stealing, and the two will engage in a brief argument over it. Helpfully, all of the "junk" that The Bard finds (wanted posters of himself, animal hides, etc) will be automatically converted into silver, since the game understands that most... okay, all players would just sell those items at the store for money.
The Bard from The Bard's Tale insists that he is not this trope, but that he takes items for safekeeping against others of this trope. The narrator doesn't buy it.
In Ōkami you can set off bombs in people's houses to get food or coins from the ensuing wreckage. Since this game evolved from Zelda, it's expected.
Solatorobo normally allows Red to poke about unmolested anywhere he likes, including at an orphanage. However, searching Vanille's bed will result in him finding some underwear, and his sister Chocolat telling him to not stare at it.
Done in Dishonored, where you can take nearly anything and it is converted into money which is spent on various goodies from NPCs. Almost necessary for a pacifism run as you need to buy a LOT of sleep bolts. Even funnier when you consider the size of somethings, most notable paintings being almost twice the size of you.
Taken to a hilarious extreme in one of the first missions, when your target is taking the captain of the guard to show him the portrait he had done, and it's gone.
Or when in the mansion of one of the richest families in Dunwalls, people see you stealing and comment that they take everything they can find since they figure it won't be missed.
In Deus Ex, while thieving (and tampering with peoples' computers, etc) wouldn't actually make friendlies go hostile, it would earn you a lot of dirty looks and irritated remarks.
The only places in the game where this isn't true is Paris, where breaking into a house while the police or civilians are there to see you will invoke the wrath of the police and alert the MJ12 troops in the area. Using lock picks in front of certain people, such as the MJ12 troops in Versalife during your first visit will cause them to attack you.
Averted in its mod, The Nameless Mod; stealing in front of NPCs will cause them to sound alarms or attack you.
Also averted in the sequel, where if you get caught breaking and entering, stealing, or hacking, the guards and/or other NPC's will turn hostile.
Lampshaded in one instance. As you bust into a locked hotel room, Icarus contacts you and suggests you "observe your motivations for breaking the arbitrary laws of the current government".
In Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the player character is the head of security for his company. You can run around breaking into offices and stealing all manner of things, but you'll start receiving e-mails concerning the break-ins and eventually realize that you've created a huge web of paranoia and nobody suspects you because you're the head of security who they trust to find the culprit. In fact, they trust you so much they send you the codes to their own offices - making it even easier for you to pick them clean.
After you visit the police station, you'll eventually run into a few cops freaking out about the same thing. They're more worried some gangbanger knows where their families live.
Aside from that, the game seems to expect you to steal absolutely everything from everyone at all times. note The Karma Meter is apparently solely tied with how many people you kill and all it does is flavor a few lines of the game's ending monologue. Basically, if you're allowed to be standing where you are, you have unlimited rights to anything you can get your hands on short of attacking and hacking.
At one point you are in a ruthless mob boss' lair and he has a Laser Rifle lying next to him. You can "borrow" the weapon while he is staring right at you and he doesn't even bat an eye. It makes logical sense that he might lend it to you for your next task, but there's no dialog or anything. It might as well be yours.
In BioShock, the player's character at one point can eat a candy bar on a table next to a Little Sister, in Tenebaum's safe house. The Little Sister says "That's mine!" in a quiet, indignant voice. If you eat the other candy bar on the table, she loudly says "Hey!"
Also, you can loot just about any dead body (whether you kill it or it was room temperature) and their weapons, as well as any container, from crates, suitcases, handbags, cabinets, shelves, safes, cash registers... makes you wonder exactly what memories your character had "tattooed into his mind" when he was administered the mental programming plasmid.
Taken to new extremes when you can loot a corpse that is presumably your own mother.
Heck, at one point in Haphaestus in the first game, Andrew Ryan will mock you for wandering around his city, breaking and looting.
Most works of Interactive Fiction, though a game as early as the wordplay-themed Nord and Bert Couldn't Make Head or Tail of It (from Infocom) subverted this in one section: Given a six-pack and a list of "pretenses" (such as "The world is flat" and "2+ 2=5") in a lawful town, the player must "TAKE BEER UNDER FALSE PRETENSES".
In the game Trinity (also from Infocom) you actually have to steal a gnomon off a sundial in the middle of a crowded Kensington Gardens.
Subverted in DreamWeb, where taking everything that wasn't nailed down would result in having an inventory full of useless objects.
The old Monkey Island games literally force you to pick up everything you can find because it will become useful later, often as part of some complicated crazy scheme that requires using several items in concert... the challenge is figuring out how. Fortunately, our hero Guybrush has unlimited carrying space in his trouser pockets or under his jacket. There's even room for the live monkey and the 10' extensible banana plucker.
Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge makes a subtle joke about this: one island has a wanted poster for your character listing a variety of thefts (and other misdemeanors) performed by Guybrush as the game progresses. A certain book in the library also contains the definition of a kleptomaniac, eliciting a "Hmm..." from Guybrush.
At the end of the game a possible answer to a question is "I stole a bunch of stuff and caused two huge explosions."
In Guybrush's case this is an actual rule, not simply something he does for problem-solving. According to Guybrush in the narrative walk-through of the third game, the Pirate Handbook officially states that "pirates by principle have to steal everything that isn't nailed down (and if you can find a way to remove the nails and steal it, do so)."
At one point in the third game, you actually do get to remove the nails from something, but you can't steal it anyway. The nails themselves come in handy, though.
In Tales of Monkey Island this is lampshaded by Guybrush asking someone if he can take an empty bucket. She asks him what he's going to do with it, and he says he doesn't know. She asks him why he would want to take it, then, and his response is "Because it's there, I guess."
Lampshade Hanging in one of the Sam And Max games, Reality 2.0. Sam goes to steal some binoculars, on the grounds he needs them more than the owner. Max remarks that that's a pretty flimsy justification for stealing, and Sam agrees. After a pause, they decide to steal them anyway.
This trope was lampshaded again in Bright Side of the Moon, where Harry Moleman at the moon's gift stand comments that "some people will steal anything that isn't bolted to the floor"— at which point Sam adjusts his tie nervously.
Also exaggerated — in Night of the Raving Dead, you can pick up an ink ribbon, but it doesn't actually do anything. No puzzles, no easter eggs, nothing. It's plain and simple taking it because it's there.
And averted in Beyond the Alley of the Dolls, where you can click on several important-looking scrolls in a room, but told they're useless.
The "take everything that isn't nailed down" comment is parodied in the text adventure game "Thy Dungeonman", in which there's a flask in a room which IS nailed down, and if you forcefully attempt to take it, the game tells you it was a load-bearing flask, and the dungeon collapses on you.
Lampshaded in the first Discworld CD ROM game. Rincewind needs to help himself to virtually everything that can be moved in every location he visits as most of them will prove useful later on. If you speak to Nobby the City Watchman at the gate during Act I, he mentions there's been a few strange thefts around town recently.
This being Nobby, though, he doesn't exactly have the moral high ground.
Kyle Hyde in Hotel Dusk: Room 215 certainly takes some things he shouldn't with him (like a crowbar from a toolbox that isn't his). Other times he might just look at stuff. There is a point in the game where carrying stuff that doesn't belong to you will result in a Game Over screen.
The Quest for Glory series averts this one. If you pick someone's pocket and fail the skill check, a nice little pop up appears stating that you "Go Directly to Jail, while you're in jail the bad guy wins." and you need to reload. Thus it pays to level your pick pocketing on target dummies rather than people.
Every game averts the "Take everything that isn't nailed down" idea; in the first place, there is a maximum amount of weight that you can carry, and every item has some weight. In the second place, "everything that isn't nailed down" includes an infinite number of small rocks.
Subversion: In King's Quest I, inside an impoverished couple's hut, there is a prominent fiddle on the other side of a tricky-to-navigate floor. If you cross the gaps and reach the lute successfully, attempting to take it yields the admonition "You cannot take their last possession!" This despite the manual explaining that you should take everything that's not nailed down. You can take the fiddle - after you give the couple a bowl that magically fills with soup and they offer it to you in gratitude.
This applies to just about all of Sierra's adventure games, however.
"I hope I don't look funny carrying around all these items," you say.
He squints for a few seconds before he sees them. Then he replies, "Nah, it's okay. Everyone's on an adventure of some sort, after all." You nod, only now noticing that he's somehow concealing a bicycle, a bungee cord, and a horse in his pocket. Looks exciting.
The first Simon the Sorcerer game had tons of items you'd accumulate, most of which were used maybe once, and then stayed in your inventory instead of being lost. There are two times in the game where you (thankfully) lose your possessions though, and the assorted crap forms a HUGE pile.
In the old Déjŕ Vu games, you could literally pick up everything that wasn't nailed down too hard. Books? Check. Flowerpot with dead flower? Sure. Board nailed over a window? Just yank it loose and stick it in your coat, it might come in handy. Since there were quite a few items you actually needed to win, but you don't know which ones the first time, you tended to pick up literally everything, just in case.
In Mystery Case Files: Dire Grove, you need to break into several buildings as you search for the missing students. However, at one point you crack open a safe containing a key (which you need) and a stack of cash. Clicking on the cash will cause the game to scold you.
Lampshaded in Murder on the Orient Express (the game), when a steward on the train remarks that lots of things have mysteriously gone missing. The Player Character, whose inventory is filled with everything from handkerchiefs to a large bowl of orange juice, responds by suggesting that "maybe someone had a good reason for taking it?"
Games based on Agatha Christie novels play with this, though you don't have to pick up everything, are not allowed to go through people's luggage when they are present, and when you do, you mostly find clothing — and some item, such as a postcard or book, which has somesignificance. Interestingly enough, in the first one And Then There Were None, the player character also demonstrated the psychic ability to know which objects he would need later, and which would "draw unnecessary attention to [his] snooping."
Total aversion in Below The Root. Unless it is on a public walkway, you need to find the owner and ask nicely. You also had limits on what you could carry, dictated by the character's strength stat. Pomma couldn't carry much at all.
Played with in Zork: Grand Inquisitor, where one of the puzzles involves getting your hands on a six-pack of canned mead, which is protected by the burglar alarm at a store. To get the mead, you have to turn up the volume on a nearby propaganda-spouting speaker until it drowns out the burglar alarm.
Averted in the LucasArts game Loom: you can only carry one item, your weaving staff (and even that you don't have all the time).
Fantasy Quest takes this to near-deconstruction levels. As with many adventure games, you take anything not nailed down. Newspapers reveal that the world's inhabitants interpret this as a crime spree and start exchanging tips for safeguarding their homes. ("Does your house have a door? Can you lock it?")
The Perils Of Akumos: After stealing just about everything you see, you really shouldn't be surprised once a shady cabal approach you to join their illegal dealings.
Lampshaded a bit heavy-handedly in Ditch Day Drifter:
*Some* adventure games would try to impose their authors' misguided sense of ethics on you at this point, telling you that you don't feel like picking up the key, or you don't have time to do that, or that it's against the rules to even possess a master key, much less steal one from some other student's pants that you happened to find in a laundry, or even more likely that you are unable to take the key while wearing that dress. However, you're the player, and you're in charge around here, so I'll let you make your own judgments about what's ethical and proper here...
Deconstructed in Deponia - Rufus feels justified in taking anything that will aid his schemes because he's extremely self-centered (though later on he gets more valid reasons). His neighbors resent him for it, and at one point it lands him in jail.
Parodied in Packrat which refers to the main character as "an adventurer with a discerning eye."
Parodied in Crazy Old Bag Lady where the goal is to locate the mythical Golden Trolley which can hold much more useless junk than your average supermarket trolley.
Lampshaded in The Reliques of Tolti-Aph, where an attempt to memorize a scroll with the "circumvent lock" spell produces the following message:
Under the terms of the recent Sorcery Millennium Property Act, all magic-users are now hypnotized to make it impossible for them to learn certain spells connected with the breaking or circumvention of locks or other devices intended to protect property. Like all magic-users, you resent the implication that you are some kind of kleptomaniac, and regard this as an outrageous infringement of your personal liberty. Especially since these are the same people who go on and on about the right to bear "apocalyptic fireball" wands! Tsk.
Mortal Kombat Deception allows you to walk into people's huts, open their treasure chests, and abscond with the goodies. You can also beat up most townspeople with little repercussions. In fact, the only crime the game will ever punish you for is staying out past curfew in orderrealm.
In Dungeons & Dragons Online, you now can steal from bookshelves, dead adventurers, mushrooms, cabinets, and the standard breakables. You get bonus XP for breaking crates and barrels.
A good strategy for cash strapped new players is *Smash everything in sight*. Along with getting a Vandal XP bonus, smashed crates and barrels often hide potions, money, and ranged ammunition or throwing weapons.
There's a house in RuneScape inhabited by an old man who will scold PCs for breaking and entering, then kick them out before they get the chance to do any looting.
The again, there's a thieving SKILL, but it doesn't help in that case, and for example, trying to steal from a stall while the owner of said stall is right in front of you will only result in him screaming for guards, and you have to wait before you can sell what you stole. It's a great skill to have in general, though.
Played with in World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria. Groundskeeper Wu asks players to bring him several rattan switches; they grow around the area, but a nearby merchant has already collected several. If you take the ones Yao the Collector has, he will get angry and threaten you; after taking the last one, Yao just laughs and commends you on your skill, doing nothing to stop you.
In SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom and The Movie, you can randomly destroy items like chairs, and tables for absolutely no reason at all. Actually, destroying some stuff REWARDS you with socks or golden spatulas - the MacGuffins of the games. Weirdly, when smashing a TV while Mermaid Man is watching, you are granted a sock.
In Mega Man Star Force, Geo frequently pilfers battle cards, computer backgrounds, and the like from random items around the place, including the houses of his closest friends. Also, some releases swap the Game Breaker Blank Cards with money, including the ones hidden in Bud's and Zack's bedrooms, leading to a situation where Geo is basically stealing $20 bills from them.
Role Playing Game
The Gothic series has a simple rule. If you weren't seen or the item in question is not in an area where anyone has claimed ownership (like a dungeon), if you take it, it's yours. However, if you are seen, you will get your ass kicked by the aggrieved party and almost certainly every guard in the area.
The Gothic series certainly allowsThe Hero to act on his thieving tendencies, but the owner of the house will hear the rummaging and come running in (no matter how far away he or she initially was) and attack if you refuse to stand down. The fact that every NPC in the vicinity - including those you have to avoid killing - chips in is an extra deterrent.
Subverted at the beginning of in Chrono Trigger. The game doesn't stop you from picking up Marle's pendant before talking to her or eating an old man's lunch right off the table (which you probably will do without thinking twice about it if you're grinding for Silver Points), but these actions come back to haunt you as points against your character when you are put on trial for "kidnapping" Marle.
Played straight in Chrono Cross. Though there is one instance where this behavior is Lamp Shaded by Karsh, who scolds the player if they try to loot the chest in his room while he's sitting right there. He'll let you loot it, but only after pestering him a lot.
All the Final Fantasy games, although Final Fantasy VII acknowledges this with a gag wherein a homeowner becomes annoyed that Cid has just taken one of the potions in his cabinet. Final Fantasy VIII has a similar scene where an old man berates Squall for stealing his life savings.
Also in Final Fantasy VII if you don't steal something from a little boy that is sleeping in his bed (you're going to hell for even thinking about it) he gives you something better the next day.
Also in Final Fantasy VII: "Hey! Don't come barging into my house and be opening up my freezer! Didn't your mother ever teach you that?"
They attempted to justify it in Final Fantasy VII : Crisis Core by saying that all those treasure chests contained Shinra Property, so as a SOLDIER, it is your job to take them back.
A small mission in Crisis Core made Zack get the keys from monsters he accidently set loose (It Makes Sense in Context) and he can take all the loot in the prison cells. There is the option to check the toilets, but Zack refuses, saying "no way is he going to check there".
In the early Ultima games, NPCs would attack or call the guards if you took things from their homes while they were in the same room; it was possible to sneak in after they'd gone to bed to burgle unnoticed. In the later games, the hero, having become the focal point of Britannian religion and being bound to uphold the principles of good moral character, will be chided and possibly abandoned by his own party if he attempts to steal, though in Ultima VII: The Black Gate it is possible to do so unpunished through a flaw in the game engine.
The guards summoned were easily the toughest enemies in the game, too. Which raises the question, why wasn't Lord British sending them off to save the world instead of you?
By Ultima IX: Ascension, kleptomania had essentially become the Avatar's ninth virtue. You could take anything in front of its owner and never suffer any consequences. At all. Ever. You could even sell a shopkeeper his own goods back to him after stealing it right in front of him.
Lampshaded in Ultima VII Part II: Serpent Isle when, during a (rigged) trial, one of the prosecutors cites the Avatar's habit of going through people's stuff as suspicious activity. To be fair, it is pretty weird.
In Dragon Quest I, the guard of the royal treasury says, "A real hero wouldn't steal." But he doesn't do anything to stop you.
In the remakes of Dragon Quest III, one of the personality determiningtests involves the hero getting arrested when they're caught stealing a purse of coins from a house. Ironically, in this instance, you were actually asked to go inside and pick it up, and can point out the supposed 'owner' who asked you during the trial.
With a single exception in Dragon Quest IV. Rummaging through a dresser leads to you being framed and imprisoned. Just that one dresser though, as you can spend the rest of the game raiding people's private property.
Leads to a bit of Fridge Hilarity in Dragon Quest IX which introduced cabinets, pots, dressers and chests that respawn. Someone's replacing everything you stole and you just keep coming back for more. Truly the Celestrian is king of Kleptomaniac Heroes.
In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, getting caught stealing too much can result in a DEATH SENTENCE being issued against the player. Once this occurs, all guards will attack on sight.
Morrowind also at least tries to make stealing a bit harder by making shopkeepers and some homeowners very alert. Steal something in their sight and they'll go berserk and attack you no matter how battle-hardened warmage you are. But if you find or make telekinesis potions, it's possible to hide behind any object or wall and steal everything off a shop's shelves, and the shopkeeper won't mind as long as he doesn't see you - despite the items vanishing into thin air right in front of his eyes and you being the only other person in the shop.
It's also possible to steal pretty much everything of value from the Customs office where the game begins. Simply pause the game, pick up the item, then set it back down on the floor. The guard will reprimand you but, since you're not holding the item, he can't confiscate it. Pick it back up off the floor, and it's yours.
The default play-style in Morrowind has been called the "Kleptomage." You steal things, you sell them, you get more spells, you train skills with your newly found source of infinite money, and you get more ways of stealing things. Rinse and repeat.
If you join the guild in Balmora and do Ajira's first quest, then she will call Galbedeir down to the bottom floor, leaving the top floor and all the soul gems and expensive items unguarded.
One of the thief quests in Ald-Ruhn requires you to steal an item from the local Mage's Guild. When the quest is active, all the residents of the place vanish until the quest is completed. Meaning that you can steal everything in the place without even pretending to use any thief skills. The only one around is a badly equipped guard who attacks you as soon as you step inside, and you can kill him (in self defense!!) without any repercussions at all. When the locals return, they don't even comment on the break-in or the dead guard or the fact that all their stuff is missing.
If you take an "owned" item (PC players can use the console command "togglefullhelp" to display any owners or scripts attached to an object), all items that share the same engine ID as that item will be flagged as stolen. Including ones that you might pick up later. So, go ahead and steal that soul gem. Just don't be surprised the next time you're stopped by a guard and he confiscates all your soul gems, including ones you legitimately bought.
Oblivion also contains a large number of items that can be stolen and sold for money. However, stolen items can only be sold to special "fence" NPCs (how a shopkeeper can suspect that an item is stolen when you got from a little shack in the middle of the forest at the other side of the world is another matter entirely), and if an NPC sees you stealing an item he will call the guards, who will try to arrest you. Additionally, the game world contains great amounts of "clutter" — items which may have theoretical value to the NPCs who own and use them but have no resale value, so that the protagonist cannot make money from looting them. This fact spawned several user-made modifications, which "corrected" this mistake.
The game tries to make stealing in shops harder than in Morrowind by making shopkeepers walk around in order to keep you in sight at all times. Note the word used is walk - not run; the shopkeepers are all very slow, so the player can just time thefts carefully and the shopkeeper will be none the wiser.
This can in fact be abused in larger shops with staircases or other natural barriers - you can lead the merchant away from their items to a spot where they can't see them, then run back quickly and steal it all.
The items are also often kept in close proximity to the shopkeeper's main shelf, so that there's no way in which you can steal them without getting noticed. However, merely hitting said objects with an arrow will launch them away, so you can just get them somewhere the shopkeeper can't see, then quickly run there and steal everything before he can walk in visual range. Or just come in when the shop keep is asleep/away... like a real thief.
The Thieves Guild encourages (and sort of forces) you to be this. The only way to advance in rank and get more quests is to prove your worth as a thief by fencing a certain amount of gold worth of stolen stuff. Unless you like taking risks (or have access to accessories to give you 100% Chameleon) you won't be finding many high-value items, so you'll make most of your cash by grabbing any "owned" item of value that isn't nailed down.
Skyrim tries to correct the problem of the walking shopkeepers: now they'll run everywhere to keep you in their sight. This problem can be fixed by... putting a bucket on their heads. Remember, if line-of-sight is obstructed they won't notice missing items, and apparently NPCs in Skyrim are perfectly OK with strangers adorning them with large, heavy items.
Daggerfall also had a few interesting takes on this trope. Most houses were locked, with doors that could be picked or bashed in (the former sometimes attracted guards, the latter always did). In both locked and unlocked buildings, one might find untended piles of random loot on the floor (which could be taken without consequence), and crates (which could be broken into, but would raise a "This is a crime, are you sure you want to?" prompt on attempting).
Daggerfall also played with this trope in its shops, where "Steal" was an option next to "Buy". If the low success rate on such thefts isn't to your liking, it was also possible to break in after the shop closed, to clear off the shelves like any other inventory. Or, for no risk at all, it's possible to loiter inside a shop until after it closes and loot to your heart's content.
Parodied in Phantasy Star IV, where searching cabinets in most houses caused the main character to remark "It's not nice to open cupboards in other people's houses without their permission!" or something similar.
A similar remark would appear in Animal Crossing as one of the randomly generated lines you get upon opening a neighbor's drawers or cabinets.
In the original Breath Of Fire, there was a chest in Auria that, when opened, caused the homeowner to call the cops on you. You could never take the contents.
Another woman in the same town asks, "What are you doing in my house?" when you talk to her. It's presented as a town of rich people, which might explain why everyone's so touchy about you touching their stuff.
In Breath of Fire III, if Nina is in the party and Rei tries to search her room in the castle, she stops him demanding to know why he thinks he is allowed to do so. His response is, "You know I am a thief". (In fact, the main character has this excuse as well, since he was also raised by thieves.) This is especially notable as the game allows the characters to search every single shelf, bookshelf, wardrobe, cabinet, shipping crate and trunk in the entire game, often yielding small amounts of cash and early-game items.
Breath of Fire IV subverts this; while you can still swipe things out of drawers, it causes you to lose "Game Points", which are vital for the main character's Dragon forms.
Used in a sad way in The Lost Age: when looking through the tidalwave-hit coastal city of Alhafra, you can find the local NPCs raiding pots for loose change so they can buy dinner for their families.
Baldur's Gate. Some items were free for the taking, and others (marked in red) would cause the guards to be summoned if any NPC (this literally meant "any NPC" — a lone cat qualified as a witness) observed you taking them and you failed your thieving rolls. This was particularly annoying because there was little consistency to it; if you really wanted to take anything that could be taken, a lot of reloads were in order. (This editor learned to fear the City Watch of any town in Baldur's Gate as being the most deadly opponent in the game: If you took anything, even if one of your NPC allies, controlled by the game A.I., randomly opened a chest or cupboard in a stranger's house, the guards would appear out of nowhere and kill your group stone dead.)
You could overcome this by knocking the entire household unconscious with unarmed attacks. You could then loot to your hearts content, and even come back later and the recovered inhabitants wouldn't show any signs of remembering you beating them unconscious and them waking up with all their valuables stolen- cranial trauma induced amnesia perhaps.
In Baldur's Gate 2, the designers acknowledged this and restored the Kleptomaniac Hero to glory. Except when pickpocketing and stealing from shopkeepers, almost any item could be taken again with impunity by a good thief, even if the owner was around to see you pinch it.
In Kingdom Hearts II, Goofy mentions "Adventuring Rule #8 - check every corner of a new place!"
Spiderweb Software's Geneforge uses a similar system to Avernum.
It's not all that rare for a game to feature this trope prominently except for one homeowner who leaves his valuables unguarded — then comes home right after the hero leaves, and will get very cross if his stuff is missing. Generally, if you left the treasure alone, you'll get a reward worth more than whatever was in the box. See Super Mario RPG and Secret of Evermore, for starters.
There's nothing stopping you from looting the chests AFTER you got the reward, however.
A variation occurs in Cave Story, where you're required to steal an old man's gun very early on to be able to continue the game. Since you have to steal it, the being-nice reward is given when you return the gun near the end of the game, instead of trading it earlier in the game. If you trade it, you get an upgraded weapon, but if you don't trade and later return it, you get what is either the best or second-best (depending on opinion) weapon in the game.
One particularly nasty treasure chest in the second half of the Sega CD RPG Vay, affectionately named the "Gold Vortex" by translators, will suck away all of the gold you've earned if you're foolish enough to open it. Naturally, it looks like all of the other chests in town, which usually hide good stuff. Guide Dang It!
And the NPC standing right next to the chest specifically tells you not to open it, making it also an example of Schmuck Bait. And if you talk to him after opening it, he scolds you for not listening.
In Knights of the Old Republic you can loot and steal to your hearts content without garnering any Dark Side Points, but while robbing an occupied apartment on Taris the family there will beg you not to hurt anybody and tell you to just take whatever you want. There is, however, one subversion in the game: If you attempt to open any of the wicker baskets in the Sand People Enclave (Any of them) the tribe will turn on you and attack you for stealing from them. In the sequel, The Sith Lords, robbing an apartment on Citadel Station will cause its owner to appear and berate you for looting his apartment, leaving you to either kill him or leave and apologise. However, even after the apology he does not ask for his stuff back.
In fact, the Expanded Universe actually considers one of these moments (from The Sith Lords) as canon. The Jedi Exile can pick up Nihilus's mask, which he drops after being defeated. Thanks to that, Nihilus's spirit in the mask is able to survive and carry on Grand Theft Me much later on.
In Magi-Nation, hero Tony Jones at one point expresses his dissatisfaction that "I go through all the trouble to break into strangers' houses, but there's never anything good inside! Inconsiderate strangers!"
In Icewind Dale a high enough lock pick skill reveals a note in Hrothgar's chest. It's a note warning you that the town treats theft as Serious Business. Not that he minds you taking the few other things in his room.
In Icewind Dale II it's quite hilariously lampshaded; in the final dungeon if you happen to be carrying around dead bodies (there are some that can be put in your inventory) you can intimidate a late game boss by showing them to him.
You need, point of fact, a dead woman, a dead man, and a dead cat. The boss will (rightfully so) consider you to be utterly deranged and let you pass without incident. The cat is also used in an early conversation near the start of the game:
Anson: Eh, what the hells are ye carrying a dead cat around for, then? Player Character: I was kind of hoping it might be the solution to someone's problem and that I could learn something from the experience. I guess not this time. Anson: If I were you — thank the Gods I'm not — I'd get out of the cold before your brain freezes anymore than it has. When a fool goes to carrying a dead cat around, that's when you need to start asking yourself some serious questions.
He's wrong about that last part, of course: you can take this subplot further and eventually get some XP for your cat carcass carrying.
In addition, there's a short early side-quest that rewards you for stealing from an unconscious NPC. The catch? The item you steal is a note to your party, explaining that the NPC is a seer and predicted you would steal from them. They're not angry about it in the least, because they also happen to need your help.
Exemplified in Blue Dragon, where you can go through entire towns and dungeons, looting the contents of every set piece you find, as well as the occasional chest. Worse yet, there is an NPC who rewards you based on the amount of times you fail to find anything in set pieces.
Why did I find 10 Gold in a cooked fish? Why is there 100 exp in a medical machine that doesn't work anymore? Why is it that in a game of magic, bat people, and shadow monsters, my suspension of disbelief is shattered by finding 2 Skill Points in a flower pot!?
In the game Nox by Westwood (before it was eaten by EA), the character is generally able to destroy and loot anything that's possible to destroy or loot, even in friendly towns and cities. In fact, in one room, the character walks in and a woman says something to the effect of "What are you doing in my house?" But if the character opens a chest, he can take a few hundred gold, and she just stands there.
The Pokémon video games practically require the main character to take whatever they can find. Sometimes it has to be taken to move forwards in the plot.
A quite odd example comes from the item Leftovers. This incredibly rare item makes your Pokémon recover a certain percentage of its HP every turn. How do you find it? By searching in a trash can.
Or underneath the place where a Snorlax was sitting. Ewwwww...
At least later generations put the focus less on stealing, but random NP Cs tend to be strangely generous to someone who just barged into their house, and anything outside of houses is still fair game.
Subversion in the Mystery Dungeon games. Whilst yes, you can steal from Kecleon's shop inside dungeons (by picking up items then not paying for them), it is rather inadvisable, as Kecleon will fight back, and he happens to be stronger than any of the story mode bosses.
Partially Subverted in the RPG Septerra Core, where taking items from peoples' houses isn't problematic, but if either of the two "thief" members of your party get caught stealing from stores, your prices there go up. Also, stealing from stores in a town, caught or not, increases the prices of all items sold by all stores in the town until you purchase enough items to placate the shop keeps. This usually involves buying the still useful and ridiculously cheap Bread or Core Relics in huge quantities.
Lampshaded in Anachronox, where the player's party can break into a room. Once inside, an NPC will assume that they are there to steal everything he owns, and tells them to go ahead and that he won't report them.
In the Fallout series, the main character can search most bookshelves and drawers with impunity, but if you try to search certain containers while their owner is in view, they won't let you, and will even attack you if you try it repeatedly. Lampshaded in the second game (see the quote).
It was even possible, but very difficult to steal from shopkeepers and sell them their own wares back repeatedly (although they would run out of money eventually.) In at least one case in the second game, the shopkeeper never seems to notice that you've sold him a unique, one of a kind gun repeatedly.
In Fallout 3, stealing anything "owned" by another character will make you lose karma points (unless said owners are slavers, in which case you aren't punished), and if the owner catches you doing it, they'll take back what you stole. Do it enough and they'll attack you. Then their neighbors will also call you out for it. Shopkeepers also have their inventories stored in unpickable containers, the key to which can only be looted from their corpses, not pick pocketed (most of the time). If a computer terminal is owned, you'll lose karma each time you use it. Thankfully, balancing out the karma loss is easy enough thanks to the water beggars (give them water, you get Karma, repeat until good).
Fallout: New Vegas is much less forgiving in this department. You can steal with impunity, but the Karma loss still applies and there are no water beggars to give to. Karma itself is also damn hard to earn due to the Gray and Grey Morality setting; stealing from any faction will cost you Karma no matter how evil they are, but there are scant few missions which grant it in turn.
Lampshade Hanging: in at least one case in New Vegas - you can walk into a standoff between an informant and some thugs and assure the thugs you're just here to loot the room, whereupon the head thug tells you to carry on.
Also in both games, just trespassing in an owned house or room for more than a minute or so will make the occupants go ballistic.
The DLC Old World Blues contains The Sink, a safe zone and most likely your new home base, because in addition to containing several storage containers and every kind of crafting station, it also includes several A.I. NPCs whose sole purpose is to convert specific Vendor Trash items into either usable items or crafting components for other useful items. Suddenly, all those clipboards, destroyed books, empty bottles, and toasters that you didn't bother stealing the first time because they were "useless" aren't so useless any more...
It's of note that stealing everything is a very poor tactic in Fallout 3 and New Vegas, because the world is full of useless items that are there just for atmosphere, being essentially worthless in terms of money.
Also of note it's remarkable all the items that aren't marked as owned that you can just up an take.
In Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura it is very very rewarding to play as a thief. Once you get your skills high enough, everything is yours for the taking. That shop is selling magickal weapons at cutthroat prices? Wait until it's dark, turn on prowling, break in, lockpick the shop's chest and its entire inventory is yours for the taking. If they're silly enough to leave their gold in there you can take that too. Oh and shops change inventory with each passing day. So you can keep doing this again and again to basically get infinite potions/scrolls/whatever you want for free. Handily enough this applies to their gold as well. You'll be disgustingly rich in no time. Pickpocket is also great. Don't want to be someone's errand boy? With a high level you can literally steal the clothes(and weapons and jewelry and boots and...) off of someone without them noticing. This applies to their unique and powerful equipment and quest relevant items.
In Shining The Holy Ark, at the first village you can search one of the houses where you find 1 coin under a bed. If you talk to the NPC in the house they say that you shouldn't be taking stuff from peoples houses but seeing as you went to so much trouble getting that 1 coin you can keep it because you clearly need it more.
Mass Effect 1 does this in a bigger way than most: once you look inside a container, it is literally impossible to exit the container interface without looting everything inside. Curious players that look inside other people's things are forced to steal everything! Naturally, no one ever cares, but given the roleplay-centric emphasis of the game, it's rather surprising to run into such an immersion-breaker.
People also never seem to mind if you hack their computers or FIRE YOUR GUNS WILDLY IN THE AIR. Granted, Spectres aren't held responsible by the law, but still, you'd expect some citizens to have a reaction to you stealing their stuff, or get scared of the mad man firing guns randomly into crowded areas (sadly you can't shoot anybody that isn't a hostile).
It gets very, very odd in the sequel, which has streamlined the loot system to involve only credits, medigel, metals, and research plans. Lootable safes, PD As, and computers containing credits are everywhere, and the game mechanic that rewards taking the time to hack them open continues to be at odds with immersion. In one of the first planets, you enter a quarantine zone with a lot of empty apartments. Most players loot everything in sight. At one point you can even convince some refugees that you are here to rescue them, then hack their safe while they watch silently. Then you come across some other looters, who you can chastise for being despicable looters. You then proceed to a medical clinic set up for the plague victims. A background character comments on the despicable looters and their despicableness. You can then proceed to swipe valuable metals and medigel from the clinic, all without anyone batting an eyelid. A lampshade hanging is all but expected but never occurs. Perhaps the writers meant to keep this bit of Hypocritical Humor deliciously subtle.
And sometimes it's just strange, period. One mission involves exploring ancient ruins of a long-abandoned Quarian colony. In one room you find an "ancient wall safe"—which has, yes, credits in it.
It gets parodied later on though, when you run into Conrad Verner.
Shepard: So...you just wander the galaxy, righting wrongs?
Conrad: Hey, don't say it like that! I talk to people, y'know? Ask them if they have big problems that only I can solve. You'd be surprised how many people are just waiting for someone to talk to them. (looks around) Sometimes I poke through crates. You know, for extra credits.
On a related note, Mass Effect 2 research activities require mining planets and collecting the metals necessary to buy the upgrades, which you do by scanning planets and firing off probes—regardless of whether the worlds are colonized or who actually owns the mining rights. Though since Cerberus are terrorists involved in everything from torturing autistic men to control the Geth to genocide of aliens why would they worry about a piddly little thing like that?
Parodied in Earthbound, where the heroes can get items out of... well, trashcans. Yes, even food items. The game also lets you steal from a self-service food cart, but not without a fight.
Also lampshaded in Earthbound. Cookies are healing items; a character sitting in a room full of gift-wrapped boxes informs you that he made cookies for everybody. Take the cookies from the boxes and he asks, reasonably enough, "How could you?"
There's also an NPC in Summers who talks about how it weird it is that people "on important adventures" break into people's houses and check their furniture for valuables.
The Mother 2 manga mocks gamers who walk around pressing A in front of everything on this page◊. (The third panel shows Ness trying to "Check" the drawer, with the text "No problem here" on the bottom, imitating the game's verbage.)
Mother 3 goes as far as placing presents out in the open that... fart. If you're lucky they might play some new music or launch some fireworks.
It also subverts this on two occasions, but both with the same item. In Chapters 2 and 3, one of the Tazmily Village residents is given a big bag of money by Fassad, which he then puts in the well. You can then walk up to the well and take it...only for the game to tell you that you put it right back. Justified in that at that particular part of the game, in Chapter 2, you live in a society where money is pretty much nonexistent, and in Chapter 3, you're being controlled by Fassad who would probably shock you into next Tuesday if you took it before he was ready.
Averted in Planescape: Torment. NPCs will be confused and offended when you casually walk into their house with your armored entourage, and will attack you if they see you swiping their stuff. Some of them even put traps on their various containers to prevent. Seems a bit paranoid, though the apparent lack of door locks to their houses might explain it.
The game Sacred follows this trope - you can open any container in any area with no consequences. Add in the fact that the contents value increases as your level does and can be further boosted by certain abilities and items that increase your chance of finding more valuable loot you can end up with a barrel inside a peasant's hovel containing hundreds or thousands of gold pieces or a valuable magic item worth thousands. When you factor in quest rewards can include magic items as well, finding a farmer's sheep can result in being given XP, 2000 gold pieces and a magic sword as a common result - never mind the ludicrous nature of that.
Lampshaded in Eternal Sonata, after attempting to take from yet another barrel Polka says:
Polka: I wonder why it's so hard to resist looking inside these barrels?
In Fable, you'll be arrested if you pick up an item belonging to someone else. Since shopkeepers display their items on counters, accidentally picking one up instead of interacting with the owner happens annoyingly often. You'll have to go into stealth mode to try and satisfy your kleptomania.
Getting the shopkeepers drunk helps with the shoplifting process.
Owning the shop does too.
In Final Fantasy IX, you are able to take a hidden stash of money from a shop very early in the game - which, upon finding it, will tell you you're the new owner of "Granny's savings", amounting to a measly 6 gil. Nobody minds you stealing from old ladies, and you're never punished. Not even by Granny herself, who is standing right next to you at the time...
In Divine Divinity, you can take anything that isn't nailed down, and a few things that are, but more often then not the owner of the house or tavern (alive or otherwise) will refuse to help you, beat you up and take back what you stole (sometimes with the rest of your money), and occasionally will keep attacking you until one of you is dead.
In Secret of Evermore, a woman in the first village you reach says you should take everything from the gourds and pots in all the huts, since you'll probably end up helping them in the long run.
There is exactly one chest in the entire game you are not supposed to loot. If you wait, the owner will later thank you for it and give you an item superior to what you would have gotten if you looted it right away. Unfortunately, this is the only time this happens and there is no clue that you should not take from the chest, making it a case of Guide Dang It.
Appears more or less constantly in Neverwinter Nights; occasionally they have characters who will tell you you can take whatever you want, but just as often someone will be sitting there talking quite amiably with the man/elf/gnome/whatever who just klepto'd everything he owned that could fit handily in a Bag of Holding.
In the expansion Hordes of the Underdark, stealing items in certain areas results in an alignment shift towards Chaotic, which depending on your class choices can range from harmless to absolutely devastating. (For example, you can only level in paladin and monk classes if you are lawful.)
In the sequel you can pick pocket very good items from various characters who show no concern if they catch you.
In Jade Empire you can loot all you like, though on at least one occasion an NPC will call you out on stealing his stuff while he was away. You can choose whether you want to return the money to him or not.
Lampshaded in Lost Odyssey: Innkeepers kindly inform you that everything in their inn is complimentary and you're welcome to take anything you find, despite the fact that you can pull down hundreds of gold, which is several times what it costs to stay there. One wonders how they stay in business.
Similarly, in one cozy family home that you stomp into, the mother of the household tells you to keep anything you find stuck in the pots or bookshelves, because her kids like to stash "weird stuff" around. In this context, "weird stuff" means piles of gold coins and useful potions.
Tales of Vesperiahangs a lampshade on this a few times. Firstly, in one of the hotel rooms in Capua Nor, you can inspect a drawer and receive the following caption: "You found 500 Gald! ...Let's put it back..." Of course, the fact that there are several knights in the room watching you may explain this restraint.
Then, in Dahngrest, you can inspect the toilet in one of the prison cells. Your character responds "Found an Apple Gel in the toilet. No way am I picking that up!"
Lampshaded in Robopon. A townsman actually says: "You can even go into someone's house without permission and take things! Here we have a law called what's mine is yours! I really don't have an opinion on the law, but it's strange!"
The Lufia games have always had the protagonist able to check people's property, such as pots and drawers, for items. Ruins of Lore takes it to a new level however by having the protagonist take three bags of 10 gold from bushes he cut down. Why is this notable? Because the three bags were in a graveyard for three people.
The Witcher: Played absolutely straight — the first thing you usually do upon entering a house is hold ALT to highlight any interactive objects and then run around stealing the owner's food, clothes, valuables and books before talking to them.
During a funeral in Cosmic Fantasy 2, you can walk up to the coffin and take the heirloom sword meant to be buried with the guy. While his family is standing right there. They don't notice.
In Dragon Age: Origins, it's more prevalent if you're a rogue, but there are still plenty of chests and dead bodies to loot. It's mostly played straight, but you're occasionally called on it. If you fail a pickpocketing save you may be confronted by the authorities, and the mad hermit in the forest will attack if you try to steal from him. And if you steal in Haven the town turns hostile.
Bonus points for picking the locked chest in the estate of Arl Eamon (a nobleman you're staying with) while he silently watches.
In Glory of Heracles for the DS you can find some items in cupboards, but taking them decreases your luck stat.
The microgame collection Synopsis Quest, a pastiche of JRPGs, has one game which references this. When instructed to "Act like a Hero", the correct response is to wander into someone's house and check all their furniture for loot.
Might and Magic has items stashed in all manner of chests, crates, boxes, sewer drains, and corpse-pockets. It's all lootable. There's only one time, in the 4th game, when an NPC will stop you from looting his chest. If you persist, he spawns as a monster and very likely kills you.
Atelier Annie actually inverts this trope. Your friends will drop by your workshop to chat and request things of you, and many of them visit by breaking in while you're out or busy and often raid your pantry for snacks in the process. Kyle is the greatest B&E offender, while Beaux holds the theft of food crown.
In the town Louran in Terranigma you can give a man the advice to take his money with him, when he dies, then rob his grave when the town turns out to be a zombie town.
Diablo III lampshades this: if Leah is in your party and you enter her room at the inn, she will react uncomfortably. She'll be downright appalled if you read her journal, which is an absurdly oversized book sitting on her desk. (Journals and correspondence can often be found on corpses and among people's possessions, and contain material which, while not usually indispensable to gameplay, usually deepens the plot. Also, there are achievements based on reading enough of them.) She'll also object if you take her into Cain's house while he isn't home.
Lampshaded in one Side Quest in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey. A demon sends you to harass another demon for stealing his food; when you confront the thief, he snaps that you have no room to judge. The protagonist, who is actually under orders from the science lab to pick up everything he sees, silently concedes the point.
And again, in Shin Megami Tensei IV, as demons no longer drop macca nilly-willy, you may be forced to sink pretty low to drum up some cash, up to assaulting other humans, "fundraising" mid-battle, or even binding enemy demons and mugging them. Some demons are disgusted with Flynn's cavalier attitude and sheer greed.
Commented on in Quest 64 - one nobleman in Limelin notes that the houses of noblemen are filled with treasures and other valuables, making it difficult to clean. Naturally, this being an RPG, you can head right upstairs and help yourself to them.
In Vampires Dawn looting every drawer in every house you find doesn't even lower your humanity score; it counts as a found secret.
Shoot Em Up
Though not an aspect of gameplay, Marisa Kirisame is well known for stealing things from others, using her short lifespan compared to those around her as an excuse: she reasons that they can always take their things back once she's dead, which shouldn't take too long from their pov... Did we mention that she steals stuff in order to uncover the secrets of eternal life, meaning that not even her previous "excuse" is actually valid if she gets what she wants?
There is even an Achievement/Trophy for pickpocketing called, would you believe, "Kleptomaniac"
Also, looting dead or stunned enemies will result in disapproving murmurs from the crowd and, possibly, hostility from the guards. Then again, the guards will become suspicious of you if you just happen to be in the vicinity, even if you're not the one responsible for the bodies. Carrying an entire arsenal may have something to do with it.
In Assassins Creed III Haythem shows disgust at the idea of looting dead bodies when one of his men suggests the idea. Which is made extremely funny when the player is making him loot said dead body as he is saying this.
In the Metal Gear series Snake/Raiden can pick up dead bodies and drop them to shake out items, ammo, and sometimes weapons. In Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots Snake can also hold somebody up by aiming at their back without being noticed and procede to frisk them.
Corvo as well as Daud can take anything that isn't nailed down in Dishonored.
Blood Ravens in Dawn of War, nicknamed "Bloody Magpies" for collecting heaps of gear clearly marked as belonging to other chapters. For most part they claim to have this recovered from the fallen heroes and wielded in their honor. For lest part...
description: The crimson teardrop icon of the Blood Angels chapter is carved into the grip of this Mk III bolt pistol. Blood Raven armorers claim this dates from a ceremonial exchange of arms between the two chapters in M37. Blood Angel archivists have no records of any such exchange.
Resident Evil is literally built around this trope. In this series, a key has the exact same potential for unlocking a new area as, say, a bag of fertilizer.
Parodied in the third game: You can find an item in a toilet, but Heather (understandably) refuses to touch it.
Dead Island If it's not nailed down, grab it! Deodorant, soap, nails, rags, Floater meat, doesn't matter. Just pick it up and put it into your modding bag.
The STALKER series. If it's in a stash, take it. If it's on a corpse, take it. If it's on the ground, take it. If someone's holding it, shoot them dead, then take it.You'll need it. Most of the best weaponry (the unique gear that typically far surpasses anything else you'll find) is usually being held by someone, and getting it usually involves a question of just how much of an utter bastard you're willing to be to get better gear.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Phoenix will snatch up anything that looks like it might help him in his court cases (and a few things that seemingly don't). Apparently, this does not count as theft by the law system in their world. A lot of these things are even things that would be too big to fit in Phoenix's pockets. It's possible that a lot of these are just pictures of the evidence, but...
This is parodied in the first game in case 3, when Phoenix grabs a copy of a map for Global Studios and Wendy Oldbag demands 50 cents for the map. Phoenix ignores her.
Maya steals the map, but Nick still doesn't pay for it. Maya also steals a vital poster in the second game, and the key card later in 1-3 - it's Lampshaded at that point: "Let's steal it!" "Borrow. You mean borrow." Ema also persuades Phoenix to steal evidence, except that stealing stuff while Ema's around is scientific.
Based on a comment by Wright in game 3 case 2, this has gotten Phoenix some bad karma, seeing as how he is one of the series's Butt Monkeys.
Godot shares this trait; he thinks the "safest place for crucial evidence" is his pocket.
As does Edgeworth; his satchel is the safest place he knows. Godot is present when Edgeworth says this line chronologically prior to Godot's use, meaning that Godot probably stole the trope, and line, from Edgeworth.
In case 2-4 Edgeworth manages to grab a life-sized stuffed bear. It doesn't disappear from the room, sure, but the game actually says, "Stuffed bear snatched up by Edgeworth", leading to the hilarious mental image of him wrestling it out the door while Phoenix just stands there and gapes.
This is actually acknowledged in 1-5, when you have to present the evidence hidden in Gant's safe. He even says that he's going to press charges, so Phoenix learns his lesson. It's doubtful that this went very far, considering how that trial went, though...
Averted in the Ace Attorney Investigations series, as whenever Edgeworth finds something, he will often jot it down in his organizer rather than take it, possibly because some of the pieces of evidence are part of crime scenes.
Lampshaded in the Miles Edgeworth Case Files manga. Franziska asks Edgeworth for the criminal record of a defendant she's prosecuting. Edgeworth suggests that she could just have taken it, but she says she "would never imitate the foolishness of a certain sham defense lawyer".
Alice: Walk into people's houses and take things...? Are you a thief or something?
Luka: There have been some who have abused that privilege. I don't think someone like that is a true hero, though.
Wide Open Sandbox
Red Dead Redemption allows you to loot dead bodies for money. In fact, one side mission has you chasing down a bandit for stealing from the general store in Armadillo: if you choose to kill him, you search the man's body and return the stolen money to the owner. Also, you may open chests and drawers pretty much anywhere they're present (yielding you money and ammo), but if you do so outside of your safe houses, you get a wanted level for stealing, no matter if someone saw you or not.
Borderlands has chests/safes/boxes/lockers you can open and loot the ammo/gun(s)/money stored inside. Given the influences from Diablo and Fallout, this isn't surprising (although you can't loot stores (except for any of the aforementioned containers that happen to be inside stores), as the stores are vending machines). Then there's the ammo in the refrigerators, mailboxes, washing machines...and toilets (giving a new meaning to the term "ammo dump"!)...
Lampshaded by the New Haven resident standing outside the gun shop, who complains that his gun is missing, and notes, "Seems like a lot of things have gone missing lately. Makes you wonder."
In fact, Claptrap's New Robot Revolution happens because the Vault Hunters' constant looting and selling have ruined Pandora's economy, thus leading Hyperion to hire the Interplanetary Ninja Assassin Claptrap to take care of the problem.
Terraria lets you take this Up to Eleven. Found a shrine made of golden bricks containing a treasure chest inside a jungle? You can take the treasure inside the chest, then use your hammer to take the chest itself, then take out your pickaxe and take the shrine itself.
Being a game with simular gameplay mechanics as Terraria, it shouldn't come as a surprise that stealing whole structures is doable in Minecraft. Possibly justified in that certain types of blocks can only be optained through either Creative mode or mining them from pre-generated exisiting structures. Subverted that said blocks may contain Silverfish.
The adventurer mode of Dwarf Fortress partially averts this, since if you take an item owned by an NPC you'll become an enemy of that civilization. However, since the game is still in alpha, there are lots of things which should be marked as NPC owned which aren't, letting you steal them out from under the noses of the NPCs without them reacting.
Non-video game examples:
Anime and Manga
Subverted in the anime Mahoujin Guru Guru, where one character actually introduces another character to the idea of stealing herbs from homes, which backfires on the second character. This anime plays with other tropes, including a scene at the end where the characters defeat everything except the final boss, then leave without fighting him.
Parodied in the RPG Episode of Haré+Guu where Haré opening a treasure chest in a random house results in him getting him beaten up for stealing.
The Slayers is an Affectionate Parody of RPGs and the protagonist Lina Inverse did this often. Although she said it didn't belong to the bandits she stole from in the first place, later she mentions feeling an itch to attack bandits and steal the loot.
A deeply unnerving example is Homura from Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Like many of the magical girls Homura can summon ludicrous amounts of weapons from her Hyperspace Arsenal to destroy witches. The difference is that Homura has no ability to fabricate weapons, the nature of her wish only granted her time magic. No, Homura has been stealing them, from the the Yakuza and military, over the course of her "Groundhog Day" Loop. By the time we see her in the series she has amassed enough weapons to make a South American dictator blush including (but not limited to): assorted small and heavy arms, pipe bombs, hundreds of rocket launchers, thousands of pounds of C4, and a battleship.
Referenced in Maou na Ano Ko to Murabito A where people from the normal everyday are born with "personalities" that align with RPG roles, such as mage, demon lord, and villager, and they go to "work" performing these roles in other realities, the main character's childhood friend is a "Hero". Because of this, she feels it is perfectly just to sneak into his room and go through all his things, leaving it a mess, just to find his porn and get rid of it.
Since KoDT is about a group of tabletop RPG players that embody almost all gaming tropes, this trope is par for the course. It's probably best captured in one of the early strips, Five Green Towels, in which the group has their first adventure since acquiring a Bag of Holding and strip the dungeon of everything - including the furniture, soiled handkerchiefs and toenail clippings.
And then, taking turns picking from the pile of loot, begin to bicker over whether the five green towels count as one pick or five.
Calamity in Fallout: Equestria (an Expy of some Fallout players) can hardly resist the urge to scavenge every single container he comes across. Everyone in his posse lampshades it at least once, including himself.
Loghain: Maude, you can't steal from your allies. It leads to all sorts of trouble, and it's wrong! I know you were at the palace of the dwarven king at Orzammar, when you killed that dragon of his. You didn't go about stealing when you were there, did you?
Loghain: You did, didn't you? You absolutely did. You totally looted the palace of the dwarven king!
The Fiddler from Kin-Dza-Dza! tries to get his hands on as many pieces of alien technology/materials as he can, whether it be by bargaining or just stealing. At one point, he attempts to make off with a giant (and very heavy) iron coffin with an alien inside. While he already has a fully functional Ray Gun. On the other hand, his antics do end up accidentally getting the team a gravitsappa, which they desperately needed.
In Soylent Green, Thorn, despite being a police detective, repeatedly steals food from victims and suspects alike. Due to the incredible rarity of fresh produce, it's not as petty as it sounds.
Mog World, a book focusing on NPCs in an MMORPG, lampshades this. Turns out local villagers are not very fond of adventurers, and among their long list of complaints against them is this.
"Knocking on your door at all hours of the day and night, wanting to rummage through your drawers for potions and loose change."
Kender from Dragonlance are renowned for doing this — they never really mean to steal it, they're just impulsive, inquisitive and don't understand personal property much. This is one of the many reasons why people hate them In-Universe. The fact that the Tabletop RPG systems usually encourage players to emulate this behavior is why many people hate them outside of the setting.
Live Action TV
On LeverageParker is this. When they are tasked to infiltrate a mental institution she poses as someone with kleptomania, something she probably posesses. Later when Hardison is wanting for the two of them to go on a vacation, she wonders what they are stealing. When visiting an art museum she gushes about the motion sensors, when asked about the paintings she has no answer.
This trope is such a fundamental stipulation in virtually all tabletop role-playing games that even systems with Character Alignment don't penalize a Lawful Good character for stripping the clothing off corpses found lying by the road so they can sell the second-hand clothes to get a few copper pieces closer to buying a slightly more powerful magic sword.
In the Dungeons & Dragons Living City campaign, gold was in such short supply at one point that some players began cutting locks out of doors, in order to sell them for extra money.
The trope is discouraged, however, in the third edition Dungeons & Dragons sourcebook Oriental Adventures, which includes an honor system that penalizes those who steal from the dead.
Thief from Eight Bit Theater does this early on in the series just to prove a point about his character (as if it wasn't obvious.)
Black Mage: Didn't the pirates take everything already?
Thief: They left everything that was nailed down. I did not.
Parodied in this webcomic about Velvet Assassin, where you gain XP by swiping random junk owned by Nazis, where her "Crowning Achievement" was stealing Himmler's left boot.
Nodwick: The adventuring party fits this description. They'll loot anything from a dungeon, including the statuary. This is not appreciated by their poor henchman Nodwick, who invariably has to schlep several tons of worthless junk back home.
The eponymous character of Sarab loots his kill in an MMORPG.
Naturally, appears in Adventurers! The homeowner's lack of objection is justified:
Commoner #1: And you didn't stop him... because...? Commoner #2: Hello! His sword is as big as me.
Encouraged in the video game-like sections of Homestuck, even though you usually don't have an inventory. Occasionally explanations are offered:
"Chests are everywhere in this lab, and people find it all too tempting to sneak their personal belongings into them for safe keeping. That is, until the goods are stolen shortly after by those who can't resist looting every chest they encounter, which is everybody."
Spoony: What does it say about me as a person that my first instinct is to rifle through her desk for useful objects?
One chapter of his Final Fantasy X review ends with him looting an apparently endless supply of potions from a chest (one at a time). The next video starts with him still doing this, and he now has a long white beard and wonders why Tidus doesn't just take the whole chest. Later on he turns this into Hypocritical Humor by suggesting that the characters loot the bodies of some disaster victims, pointing out that Tidus apparently has no problem stealing from the living.
Jesse Cox is notorious for doing this during otherwise straightforward RPGs. In short, if the facility to loot objects exists, he will exploit it constantly - much to the frustration of his fanbase.
As an example, the designers of Bioshock Infinite littered the bodies of your fallen enemies with low stength restoratives for your health and salts. These objects also appear commonly in the world design - since you have no inventory, they have to be offered almost constantly. Eating a few such items will restore you to full health. Jesse, however, tracks down and devours every last food item one by one. While already at full health and salts. In areas he might need to backtrack through later. While recording an action Let's Play.