Disposition is a numerical representation of an NPC's friendliness towards you. Low disposition can result in negative effects and dialogue, while high disposition may earn you discounts, quests, and gifts.
Skyrim differs from its predecessors in that disposition unlocks the marriage option. Completing quests, hiring individuals, and other tasks will raise some individuals' dispositions to a level necessary for marriage. However, due to the fact that there are no charm-based spells that directly influence disposition in a form other than calm and frenzy, spells cannot be used to influence disposition for marriage.
The default relationship rank is 0 (Acquaintance); the rank can vary between -4 and 4. The gold amount is the maximum value of an item you may take from someone at a certain rank without it being considered theft. Note that item value only works on items that belong to a that person's faction, not items that are owned by that person. Also the item value is only evaluated once meaning if you first become a friend then an ally item value will remain at 25, not 100.
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Several quests and favors influence the relationship rank of NPCs, usually when the quest is successfully completed. This is documented on the quest page in the following way:
- The rank is set to friend, no matter what it was before. If numbers other than 1 appear, the rank is set accordingly.
- The rank is set to friend, if it was acquaintance before. Otherwise nothing happens.
- min 1
- The rank is set to friend, if it was below before. A higher rank remains unchanged.
Other actions influencing the relationship rank:
- Gaining a permanent follower will make them an ally, if the rank was in the range of 0 and 2 before. Dismissing them doesn't change the relationship. For animal followers the initial rank is irrelevant.
- Investing in a merchant will make them a friend if they were an acquaintance before.
- Killing someone who has a high relationship with another NPC will cause that NPC's disposition towards you to fall below 0.
- Exiling Jarls, Stewards, and Housecarls by taking their city in the Civil War will cause their disposition to fall below 0.
- Dropping an object and entering the dialogue where the NPC asks if they can have the object, and telling them "Consider it yours." can raise a 0 disposition to 1. Note that it is not guaranteed to trigger that dialogue when an object is dropped.