What determines when you do a finishing move?

Sometimes, when fighting an enemy, your character will do a special move, with a third person view animation, instantly killing the enemy. But these types of moves seem to be random, sometimes being used on enemies with nearly full health, other times not having a finishing move at all during a whole fight.

What are the parameters determining when a finishing move is used?


If you are within about 1-4 blows of killing an opponent, a “finishing move” animation may appear, depicting one or several fatal strikes from either a first-person view or third-person “KillCam”. If the Savage Strike (One-handed) or Devastating Blow (Two-handed) perks are unlocked, there’s a chance that this will be a decapitation. Note that under the right circumstances, NPCs and Dragons will also be able to perform finishing moves, both against each other and against you.

Source: UESP wiki, “Skyrim: Combat” article
Finishing / Kill moves are not completely random. Finishing moves are affected by the in-game variables, ‘KillMoveRandom’ (default: 50%), and ‘DecapitationChance’ (default: 40%) and various factors, some of which are:

  • Kill Cameras will only be performed if killing the enemy will take the player out of the combat mode. Due to this, killing the last active/aggressive enemy will often trigger a finishing move / kill cam. But this does not mean that only killing the last active/aggressive enemy will trigger a kill cam, e.g. killing an enemy while sneaking and remaining undetected will allow a Kill Camera, even if there are more enemies present.
  • The opponent being killed. Some enemies in the game seem to have no finishing moves associated with them.
  • Your position relative to the enemy. For example, there is a one-handed sword stab-through-the-middle execution that will only play if you’re standing behind a humanoid opponent. There are also finishing moves which require your enemy to have surrendered and fallen down to their hands and knees.
  • It should be noted that your steath state has an affect as well. E.g., you can cut throats with a dagger.
  • The terrain: finishing moves appear to depend on relative elevation. While it’s possible to enter into a finishing move animation on uneven terrain, it’s far more likely to happen if both you and the enemy are standing on a flat, level surface.
  • Other nearby obstacles: If the enemy NPC is too close to an object like a table, it may interrupt the animation and leaving you standing there until enough time has passed and the game gives you back control of your character.
  • Chance: Some animations seem to play more often than others.
  • Slow Time: Finishing moves will not trigger while under the effects of the dragon shout Slow Time.

Source: UESP wiki, “Skyrim: Combat” talk page (edited to take into account the comments in reply to the original post) | TES wiki, “Kill Camera” article (edited to explain further)
You can modify the finishing move-related variables using the console commands, set killmoverandom to <0-100> and set decapitationchance to <0-100>. Or, use mods like SkyTweak (configuration page screenshot), The Dance of Death – A Killmove Mod (configuration page screenshot) or Killmove Control which have UIs to help configure those settings. ‘The Dance of Death’ mod can even remove the ‘last active enemy’ restriction.

Source : Link , Question Author : Jupotter , Answer Author : galacticninja

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