I have a few thoughts on some of the Skyrim-style bugs. I'm just spit-balling here, so there may be better techniques or massive flaws, but here goes:
- Trust - trust can be earned or lost various traditional ways. Also if a crime occurs while an NPC isn't present, they will apportion blame proportional to existing distrust of the major suspects (e.g. people seen in the vicinity of the crime shortly before or after). Trust/distrust will slowly decrease over time to x% of the maximum historical value.
- Aggression - will have a range of values. These can be expressed in ways such as rudeness, refusal to talk, refusal to trade, non-lethal fighting or lethal fighting. Causing aggression in a neutral/good character could be considered a minor crime.
- Personal space - NPCs try to maintain personal space. A non-trusted party (or one already aggressive towards) invading their personal space will increase aggression.
- Situational awareness - NPCs try to maintain sufficient information to meet their goals. For example, if expecting combat they will seek a good viewpoint to spot enemies. If a shop owner they would try to keep an eye on their goods, especially when untrustworthy people are around. There would be some measure such as the value of an area vs how long since it was last viewed. If they are unable to fulfil this their aggression would go up (a little, with capped increase). This would need to be balanced against goal seeking.
How would this help? Well, as Dave Mark indicated, unless there's a "remove bucket from head" action, it won't fix everything. But what would it achieve? Well, you approach shopkeeper A with the bucket. They try to maintain their personal space. You forcibly invade their personal space, causing some aggression. The bucket reduces situational awareness. Over time this increases their aggression more. Shopkeeper B isn't aware that putting a bucket over a head is a bad thing, but senses the growing aggression of shopkeeper A and partly blames you (and potentially others) due to proximity. You are probably blamed more than others because invading A's personal space reduced trust in you. Bucketing B would be harder because of the aggression and distrust. But say you achieve it. Then you steal goods. Hoorah. But when you take the buckets off, both shopkeepers are aggressive, the losses will be noted and partially attributed to you, and a fight or refusal to serve may ensue.
Is this bullet-proof? Heck no. If your chosen role in life is to de-bucket bucketed shopkeepers, you're going to get a lot of flak. And I'm sure many other bad behaviours could spring from it. But is it worth investigating? And if not, what is?