How I made Skyrim a Completely Different Game, and You Can Too! Part One

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Posted by MordeaniisChaos (5730 posts) -

I've recently undergone a journey of ambitious scope. I've already played almost 250 hours of Skyrim at this point, and honestly it's been awhile since I dedicated much time to the game. Now I have a bit of time for it now though, and I wanted to go back into it with a full mod rehaul spectacular.

Desired End Result: A more dynamic, in depth, and survival focused game.

First of all was the gameplay. While I'm a lot less down on Skyrim's combat than most, I still recognize it has flaws, and could be made better. I also have a lot of mechanics in mind that aren't a part of the game but that I'd love to see in the game to help me encourage to play a 'role' within the game. The role I was most interested in was a hunter type who could rely on himself to survive in the wilderness of Skyrim, but who took part in the events of the land. He's a warrior, but one who knows his way behind a bow and how to field dress game. A rugged, capable adventurer.

Secondly, I wanted to pretty up the game. There are a lot of great texture mods for Skyrim, but it's a bit of a balancing act in Skyrim because you've got to be careful not to go too crazy with them, and focus on the important ones. I have a very beefy PC but Skyrim still isn't the best optimized game. My focus for this stuff was improving the lowest points in Skyrim. Things like the shields and environment textures.

Thirdly, I wanted some new content to keep me going. I wanted new placed to explore, new characters to meet, and most of all new gear to play with. I despise anything that doesn't legitimately fit into the lore and tone and aesthetic of Skyrim. I avoid all of the anime bullshit and try to keep to stuff that looks less "special" and amazing, and more functional.

I'll go into more depth on how I achieve these goals on a mod by mod basis when I get into the actual list of mods you'll need.

Getting Started: Essential Tools

First thing's first, you need to go over to the Skyrim Nexus, the premiere source of Skyrim mods. Pick up the Nexus Mod Manager, another essential tool in modding Skyrim, which will help you more easily download and keep up to date your mods, as well as help you control load order (you need to do this if you plan to use many of the primary mods I will be suggesting) and even launch the game. Then, make sure you have the High Resolution Textures downloaded and installed. If you can't run the slightly better textures in that pack, you're not going to get much out of this list. It should be easy to nab this on Steam on the off chance you don't have it yet. You'll also need the latest SkyrimScriptExtender (SKSE) for most of the gameplay relevant mods, so make sure you have this installed first and foremost.

The Mods: Survival Gameplay

Frostfall - Hypothermia Camping Survival -Chesko

Frostfall is a pretty interesting mod that forms the core of my little "Survival module." It adds two major aspects to Skyrim: Cold Weather Survival and Sustainable Wilderness Living.

The Cold Weather half of the mod simulates various elements of surviving the frigid winds, deep snow drifts, and icy waters of Skyrim. It simulates the player's temperature based on certain variables. When the player is in a cold, snowy area they will receive greater exposure to the cold. And if the player gets wet, they will be even more vulnerable to the cold, especially if they have recently been submerged. Falling into the freezing waters of Skyrim is no longer a matter of casual fun. It becomes dangerous, bringing your temperature down rapidly and making it even more difficult to keep warm without a strong fire. Even the rain can hinder your progress in the wilderness, especially if you don't have a good cloak and hood to keep you dry. In fact, clothing and gear plays a large part in surviving now. You can't wander around in Iron armor for days and come out the other side. You'll freeze to death on the frozen tundra without warm clothing. Thick furs, heavy cloaks, and other insulating items of clothing are a necessity.

The Sustainable Wilderness Living aspect of the mod adds several mechanics around constructing and using a camp to rest, cook, and warm your haggard self. This in particular plays into the other mods in the Survival Module such as Needs and Diseases, as they all center around ensuring you keep well fed, parched, and have shelter to rely on. It brings a new focus on hunting and gathering because you need to have firewood and meat to survive.

The reason I love Frostfall is that it makes Skyrim feel like a place you have to survive, not a place you just sprint around to explore. It's very tense wandering around in the pitch black of midnight, almost unconscious from exhaustion and cold, hoping to happen upon a friendly camp. It also helps to solidify the sense of place. You find familiar hunting grounds, a good place to camp, fellow hunters to barter with. It's pretty awesome.

Realistic Needs and Diseases &Inns and Taverns: Realistic Room Rental -perseid9

As the name implies, Realistic Needs and Diseases adds more "bodily functions" to Skyrim, primarily hunger, thirst, and disease. This mod is key to reinforcing the need to hunt and adding difficulty to survival.

Like Frostfall, RND is broken up into two chunks, and adds a number of mechanics to serve both elements.

The first half of the equation is the "Needs" part of the title. Your character will get exhausted without sleep, or intoxicated if you overdo the ale. You also need to eat or you'll starve, and suffer the consequences of an empty belly. But to make things easy for you, the mod adds a lot of new recipes, making food much easier to come by as you will usually be close to a source of food, instead of having to seek out one of the sparse ingredients of vanilla Skyrim. But food wasn't the only thing to get attention, beverages see a boost in variety and thirst is another metric you need to keep track of. You'll be able to fill your waterskin at the river if you have need, so it should be easy to keep your thirst at bay.

Playing into the other half of the mod, (Diseases) food also ages, meaning that it can spoil if you've kept it in your pack for too long. On top of food spoiling, the diseases of Skyrim have been rehauled, and become much more serious. When you first come down with an illness, the symptoms are easy to cope with. But as the disease progresses, the effects will become difficult to live with. With luck, all you'll need is some rest in a real bed with a warm fire and stew in your stomach. If that doesn't do the trick though, you'll need to resort to science, or magic to cure what ails you.

Hunterborn - unuroboros

Hunterborn is a great mod to pair with Frostfall and RND, giving a lot more depth to the actual activity of hunting, which is great because it's something end up doing a lot more of with hunger factoring into your wellbeing.

Normally in Skyrim, hunting is pretty simple. You shoot the deer, and then you might get something from doing that. Like, a ring! But with Hunterborn, loosing that fatal arrow is the simple part. From there, you have a number of options depending on your situation. If you have a camp nearby, you can pick up the carcass and transport it to your camp where you can dress and butcher the animal. You can also harvest organs and the like from animals, and skin the pelt. Once you've gotten what you need from the animal, you can dispose of the remains.

This makes hunting much more active and requires that you do more than just "Hit X" to get everything you can out of the animal. But it also means that you'll be able to harvest realistic amounts of what the animal has to offer, instead of hoping you'll get some meat this time.

Another added bonus is that the mod expands upon the alchemical and culinary fields in Skyrim, adding recipes and ingredients to the game, many of which cater to the hunter in all of us. Hunterborn is an excellent mod for any marksman/ranger type, but fits in with my character as well.

SkyTEST - etayorius

SkyTEST is pretty to explain but is still a really great mod, which further enhances the player's encounters with the wildlife. It focuses mostly on the behavior of the critters of Skyrim, making them a little more interesting, dynamic, and organic.

With SkyTEST, predators stalk their prey, creatures seek sources of food, and even socialize amongst themselves.

Mods: Gameplay Balance

Skyrim Redone [SkyRE] - T3nd0

Skyrim Redone is, as the name suggests, an overhaul of Skyrim's base mechanics. Many people had issues with Skyrim's combat and perk system, but for me this is more about giving a more tactile experience. This makes combat more demanding, engaging, and dynamic.

I won't get into the details of it, if you want to read up on the mod's page you can do that, it goes into great depth there.

Locational Damage - Kahmul

Locational damage is a pretty no-nonsense kind of mod, but it goes a lot further than you might expect. This isn't as simple as damage based on headshots.

Not only are there an entire fourteen separate "zones," from limbs to necks to faces, but each zone has unique possible effects when hit, sometimes even based on what is hitting the zone. Some effects only happen when a bow is used, other only if a bash attack, and other still require a heavy weapon to be used. This gives the player a lot more to do in combat, making things much more intense, engaging, and dynamic.

SER Market Fix - MD Wolfe

This is a very handy mod to make the economy of Skyrim more sensible and less exploitable. It increases the amount of coin a shop owner might have, and plays with the costs of items to be a little more logical. Very handy if you plan to make a living in Skyrim.

The creator of the mod claims that the prices are being changed based on the values of base materials and demand and more, meaning every item is worth what it's actually worth.

The Mods: Immersion

Mike Fox's Darker Nights- Mike Fox

This is one of, if not the absolute best, way to fix Skyrim's ridiculous nights. While most solutions use post processing, Darker Nights actually reduces the light in the world, avoiding the image destruction of other options.

There are a number of different version as well, allowing you to get the flavor you prefer.

Its sister mod, Darker Dungeons is an interesting mod, but because it acts upon every interior in the game, some of which end up far too dark (especially inhabited buildings like inns and shops and homes) so I wouldn't suggest that one unless you really really want it. I find Skyrim does fine at keeping interior darkness at an appropriate level, so I'm not using it with Darker Nights.

Open Cities- Arthmoor

This one is extremely simple to explain: Cities are no longer instanced, meaning you can walk right through the gates and around the strongholds of Skyrim without a loading screen. It's a small but very awesome touch.

Relighting Skyrim - NovakDalton

Relighting Skyrim is one of my favorite graphics mods for Skyrim because it has one of the most dramatic effects and on one of the most important parts of an engine's quality in my book: lighting.

This mod adds actual light sources where they previously had been missing, and also makes some light sources cast shadows that had not done so in vanilla Skyrim. It's probably not something you'll usually notice when it's there, but you notice when it isn't so I consider this an important mod, especially if you have mods like Darker Dungeons.

Immersive HUD - Gopher

This is a simple, but very effective mod for my goals with modding skyrim. It allows you to have much greater control over the HUD and when its various elements are on screen. I use it to keep as little on screen as possible at any given time to add to the immersion of the world. No more HUD elements cluttering my view as I trek through the tundra or forests of Skyrim.

Travel by Boat - Joubarbe

Travel by Boat adds a number of docks and boats around the rivers of Skyrim, allowing the player to use a more contextual "fast travel" to get around Skyrim. I mostly like this because of the added objects in the world, but I was also hugely drawn to the real time ferry along the coast of Skyrim. It's that kind of stuff that really gives me a kick.

The Mods: New Gear!

Immersive Armors & Immersive Weapons - hothtrooper44

These two great mods add a ton of gear to the game, making the enemies far more varied in their gear and giving you a lot more toys to play with! And the best part? It's all lore friendly.

No silly Final Fantasy swords that look like they were modeled and textured by a 13 year old, just a lot of high quality gear that fits into the world, while still doing a great job of expanding on the weapons and armor of Skyrim.

Weapons of the Third Era - Created by 747823 & Updated by MasterofShadows

Weapons of the Third Era is a Morrowind inspired weapon pack that adds a little bit of old school Elder Scrolls flavor back into Skyrim. If you're lucky, you just might might happen upon some weaponry imported from the marshes of Morrowind!

JaySuS Swords- JaySuS

JaySuS Swords focuses, obviously, on bladed weapons, which I like for a couple of reasons. For one, most of the swords in Skyrim are a bit on the fancy side of things.

Swords seem like they should be the most common weapon you see in Skyrim, so I like this adding to the chance you'll see a sword in someone's hand instead of an axe or mace.

JaySuS swords have a very realistic feel to them, and they fit very well with the not so vaguely Viking tone of Skyrim very well. There are a few quirks that I'm not a huge fan of like references to the crusades which obviously didn't occur in the universe that takes place in Skyrim, but it's mostly just on the pommels of swords so you don't ever really notice it.

Armor Compilation - Omegared99

The armor in this set is not only pretty great, but also serves to add just enough flair here and there. After all, it's only realistic that highborns and jarls and emperors would have finer armor sets than those adventurers and soldiers bear. It has some nods to other worlds, but in this case I'll let it slide because it actually fits in the aesthetic without being overbearingly from-another-world-y.

Skyforge Shields - Dreogan

Shields don't get a lot of love in Skyrim. There aren't a ton of em, and a lot of them have pretty piss poor textures. Luckily, I have a few fixes for both. Skyforge Shields adds a few pretty awesome looking and of course very lore friendly shields intended to mirror the style of other Skyforge items.

Bandolier: Bags and Pouches - Dragten

This is a good mod that adds some flair to your character and also gives some neat functionality in the way of added carry capacity. This adds a ton of new bags and pouches and straps and doodads to add a lot of cool details to your character and to help you carry more gear.

Ritual Armor of Boethiah - Wasbunny

This armor looks pretty awesome, and fits pretty perfectly my idea of what a loyal servant of some dark and malicious deity would earn in through their service in Tamriel. It may be a bit too spectacular for some, but I think it looks too awesome to pass on.

Insanity's Shields - InsanitySorrow

Another mod to buff up the selection of shields, this adds a number of new Round Shields to the game with over 50 patterns to add some variety to the gear the inhabitants of Skyrim carry.

Cloaks of Skyrim - Noodles

Cloaks of Skyrim is pretty obvious, but one of my favorite mods to add to the feel of the world: adds cloaks! And not only that, but it interacts in really awesome ways with Frostfall. Skyrim just makes more sense with cloaks, and I'm surprised that they weren't in the game to begin with!

Plus, you look badass with a cloak!

The Rest: Minor Mods and Fixes

Here I'm going to list all of the smaller mods that don't impact the gameplay. For the most part, they are visual mods. For those that have multiple quality levels, I'm pretty much always just picking the highest version.

I'll probably add the Gear Visuals up top with pictures and all that because they really are essential in my opinion, vanilla gear looks pretty terrible. But this list needing to have links took forever and I don't have the patience to continue with this today. That change and the full install guide should be up tomorrow by about 6PM PST. After that I'll consider doing a big screenshot gallery and a video of me showing the basics of how this collection of mods has changed the way I play. Which may or may not be cheesy and "lore" friendly. But will almost certainly involve green screen silliness at some point.

Immersive Skyrim Thunder - Wordeee

No Radial Blur - Holugar

Real Night Eye- Ichibu

Real Rain - PlayerTw0

Sound Propagation Overhaul - rohverK

Supreme Storms - mannygt

Better Dynamic Snow - SparrowPrince

Quality Snowflakes HD - Yuril

Real Shelter - Robinsage

Remove Interior Fog - rgabriel15

Wet and Cold - isoku

Bones and Skeletons Retexture- Andre789

Dark Brotherhood Tenets Restored- Rathinosk

Detailed Rugs - raiserfx

Dragon Glyphs HD - Valstein0

Enhanced Blood Textures - dDefinder1

Hi Res Battle Maps V2- Bosphorus670

High Definition Ivy - Josh Ezzell

Real Effect Candle - Yuril

Roadsigns Redone - Hanaisse

Skyrim Effects Project - Deanoman

Static Mesh Improvement Mod - Brumbek

Ultimate HD Fire Effects -rheadude

Visible Windows - isoku

Gear Retextues

Book of Silence -CaBaL

Hvergelmirs Armor AND Shield Retextures - Hvergelmir

Improved Weapon Enchantments FX - darkman24

Ultra HD Silver Sword - FrankFamily

Virtus Imperii - EcthelionOtW

A Quality World Map - IcePenguin

Alternative Snow - Yuril

AOF Detailed Mountains - AnOldFriend

High Realistic Tundra Moss for AOF Detailed Mountains- Hein84

Benjamin318s Door Retexture - Benjamin318

Benjamin318s Tents - Benjamin318

Better Embers - lavigne77

Distant Decal Fix - SparrowPrince

Footprints - jonwd7

High Quality 3D Map AND LOD- Ethatron

Skyrim HD (All) -NebuLa1

The Skyrim Distance Overhaul - Grieche

W.A.T.E.R. - SparrowPrince

Character Visuals

AOF Believable Hair - AnOldFriend

Beards - Hvergelmir

Brows - Hvergelmir

Beards Unleashed - osdiaus

Benjamin318s Beast Races - Benjamin318

Better Vanilla Hairs - kebrus

High Res Face Maps for Men - Geonox

High Res Warpaint and Dirtmaps for Men - Geonox

Horse HQ Retex - Helendia

Nuska Real Skin for Women - Currently unlisted :(

Ponytail Hairstyles - azarkiowa

Realistic Teeth - Brumbek

Straight Hair Retexture - navetsea

#1 Posted by MordeaniisChaos (5730 posts) -

@starvinggamer: Here's the first bit of my mod blog. Next bit will be up tomorrow. Should be quicker from here, I had to generate assets for most of these and ended up distracted by new photoshop toys. Spent most of my time painting depth passes for small thumbnails :p These are the most important mods, most of the others are smaller ones that don't add major mechanics. There'll be more visual mods, and some smaller immersion mods, and the gear mods and some fresh content ones but most of the important ones were mentioned between this and your thread. Have fun getting things modded!

#2 Edited by Butler (384 posts) -

Awesome. This is something I could get behind. I love emergent gameplay where my actions and not a quest chain are the moments where I go "That was awesome." I think that is why I enjoyed playing Minecraft and Far Cry 3.

Thanks for this. Are you going to add any creature mods because the paltry selection in Skyrim was pretty boring.

#3 Posted by StarvingGamer (7919 posts) -

@mordeaniischaos: I'm not looking for 100% immersion, just a little more mechanical depth to the time spent wandering around outside. Would the Frostfall mod make sense on its own without the added context of the RND mod?

#4 Edited by MordeaniisChaos (5730 posts) -

@starvinggamer:Yeah, totally. And remember, all of the Survival mods let you customize what you want to play with. If you just want the extra recipies from stuff like RND and Hunterborn, you can just turn everything else off, or just have the couple of features you want. It's the best part of those mods, they all have an ingame menu (Under System) with really great customization.

It's also worth pointing out the rest of my immersion mods are less gameplay relevant, they really just add to the feel of the world. Mods like "dynamic names" which changes the boilerplate "Bandit" into a dude with an actual name. There's even a structure based on race or position, which is pretty awesome. There's also one that adds boats around Skyrim, if you want to shy away from fast travel without context. There's even a ferry or two that'll give you a real time ride along the coast, which is pretty bad ass. The rest of the immersion stuff is more of that stuff, some animation tweaks, etc. Most of the heavy hitters, if not all of them, were already listed above.

@butler: I haven't found any that didn't add a bunch of really dumb looking creatures, if you have any suggestions I'll check them out and add them to the list if I like any! I don't mind much because the places I'm used to seeing critters, some of which resemble skyrim rather a lot, don't really have a ton of variety in terms of mammals. In reality, you don't see 40 different animals in one ecosystem like the Tundra. That's more of a tropical thing.

#5 Posted by ZeForgotten (10397 posts) -

I guess it's about time I put some more mods into Skyrim.
Already have a bunch of graphical stuff (including better lighting and super dark nights as well) so I got that covered.
The Open Cities thing seems like one of the most obvious things to have really and I'm stupid for not having had that in there already

#6 Posted by MordeaniisChaos (5730 posts) -

I guess it's about time I put some more mods into Skyrim.

Already have a bunch of graphical stuff (including better lighting and super dark nights as well) so I got that covered.

The Open Cities thing seems like one of the most obvious things to have really and I'm stupid for not having had that in there already

Open cities is awesome if only for the fact that it saves a decent bit of time if you need to just pop in for a merchant or run up to the smith. Plus it's awesome to open the big gates :p

If you don't have much in the way of gear packs, look forward to the next installment, so many new weapons and armor sets.

#7 Posted by JouselDelka (967 posts) -

I'm in love with you, random internet citizen. Might fire Skyrim up tonight and select some of your fine wares to install (I know you didn't make them).

Thanks.

#8 Edited by ZeForgotten (10397 posts) -

@mordeaniischaos: As far as gear goes I've had some silly ones in there just for the fun of it but yeah, looking forward to the next blog for sure.
Games like this are mostly only fun to me with a bunch of mods installed and at the same time it's fun to see what mods other people seem to find around the internets.

Edit:
Also, do the AI also move outside the gates on their own or are they still the same ol' idiots just standing around in the same spot or walking around their set paths?
If they're still dumb as bricks are there any mods to enhance all that fluff? I mean, it's just a bit cooler if the guards or something walked out of town (with that mod installed) instead of getting scared just thinking about what's outside the walls. .. probably asking too much (would involve dragons flying in as well and stuff I guess. But.. yeah. End rambling)

#9 Posted by StarvingGamer (7919 posts) -

@mordeaniischaos: Yeah, for the time being I'm just trying to juice the game a little bit in every category to see how I like it. A few mechanics mods here, a few gameplay tweaks there, a few item mods etc. Thanks again for all of the great info.

#10 Posted by MordeaniisChaos (5730 posts) -

@jouseldelka said:

I'm in love with you, random internet citizen. Might fire Skyrim up tonight and select some of your fine wares to install (I know you didn't make them).

Thanks.

Hey, glad I could spread the wonder, brother. Tune in tomorrow for more awesome mods! Keep in mind that with all of the mods I use, there are some compatibility concerns that need to be address, so if your game crashes before it hits the main menu, it's probably a load order issue. Feel free to message me if you get something like that and I'll see if I can help out. I don't think this list has any real issues though so it shouldn't be too much of an issue. Most of these work well with just about all other mods, but make sure to check the compat. info on the mod pages over on the Nexus.

#11 Posted by Vman (19 posts) -

This is amazing. I can't wait for the rest of your posts! I was just thinking of getting back in and having a mod shortlist prevents me from getting overwhelmed with all the new content again! Thanks a bunch!

#12 Edited by MordeaniisChaos (5730 posts) -

@zeforgotten said:

@mordeaniischaos

: As far as gear goes I've had some silly ones in there just for the fun of it but yeah, looking forward to the next blog for sure.

Games like this are mostly only fun to me with a bunch of mods installed and at the same time it's fun to see what mods other people seem to find around the internets.

Edit:

Also, do the AI also move outside the gates on their own or are they still the same ol' idiots just standing around in the same spot or walking around their set paths?

If they're still dumb as bricks are there any mods to enhance all that fluff? I mean, it's just a bit cooler if the guards or something walked out of town (with that mod installed) instead of getting scared just thinking about what's outside the walls. .. probably asking too much (would involve dragons flying in as well and stuff I guess. But.. yeah. End rambling)

Guards will patrol in and out of the city like they used to in vanilla, only now they just walk in instead of hitting the door and "loading." I assume dragons can do some damage in the cities as well but I've yet to see it.

@mordeaniischaos: Yeah, for the time being I'm just trying to juice the game a little bit in every category to see how I like it. A few mechanics mods here, a few gameplay tweaks there, a few item mods etc. Thanks again for all of the great info.

Yeah, I get that. You should definitely check in tomorrow to make sure you've got all of the major lore friendly gear packs, because those really make a difference when you're adventuring around. Bandits aren't all wearing the same identical set and there are lots of cool new items to find. Let me know how you feel about any of the mods you found out about through me, I'll be curious to see what others think of em, just for curiosity's sake :)

No problem duder, happy to share!

#13 Posted by Dtat (1623 posts) -

@starvinggamer: I suggest you use it in conjunction with SkyRe. It works best that way.

#14 Posted by ZeForgotten (10397 posts) -

@zeforgotten said:

@mordeaniischaos

: As far as gear goes I've had some silly ones in there just for the fun of it but yeah, looking forward to the next blog for sure.

Games like this are mostly only fun to me with a bunch of mods installed and at the same time it's fun to see what mods other people seem to find around the internets.

Edit:

Also, do the AI also move outside the gates on their own or are they still the same ol' idiots just standing around in the same spot or walking around their set paths?

If they're still dumb as bricks are there any mods to enhance all that fluff? I mean, it's just a bit cooler if the guards or something walked out of town (with that mod installed) instead of getting scared just thinking about what's outside the walls. .. probably asking too much (would involve dragons flying in as well and stuff I guess. But.. yeah. End rambling)

Guards will patrol in and out of the city like they used to in vanilla, only now they just walk in instead of hitting the door and "loading." I assume dragons can do some damage in the cities as well but I've yet to see it.

Ah, lovely.
Was just worried they maybe broke the AI and stuff, but yay, no loading!
I know the load times aren't that long but still, even seeing the loading for 1-3 seconds gets annoying, especially if you remembered something that you forgot to buy -.-
So again, thank you, sir of internets!

#15 Posted by Bollard (5206 posts) -

I so want to do this, but the time investment :O

Also how easy is it to roll back to vanilla after such heavy modding?

#16 Edited by ZeForgotten (10397 posts) -

@chavtheworld: I haven't had a problem with it.
Nexus Mod Manager has an Install/Uninstall Mod Feature that gets rid of the mod again(doesn't delete the downloaded files so you can reinstall the mods later on)
Sometimes people have had problems where a mod changed some key files that Vanilla Skyrim needs to run but then you just go in and verify the files using Steam and it'll download them so fast that you didn't even realize that it had started redownloading them.

That is just my experience using NMM though, results may vary.

#17 Posted by doomguy420 (18 posts) -

Seriously this game on pc is so amazing. People can say that there is a huge graphical difference in so many games, but this game shows the true power of the pc is flexibility and the ability to nurture creativity (and also graphics :P)

#18 Posted by MordeaniisChaos (5730 posts) -

I so want to do this, but the time investment :O

Also how easy is it to roll back to vanilla after such heavy modding?

Once the guide is finished, it shouldn't actually be much of a time investment. I've done all of the hard work for you: finding the quality mods among the thousands and fixed any compat issues. All you'll have to do is click the links, and hit the button to download with the Nexus Manager, and make sure your load order is the same as mine. If you want to start adding in many sensitive mods of your own you may have to troubleshoot where that goes in the load order, but most mods have that info for you already anyway.

It's super easy with the Nexus Manager. You can very easily just uninstall any mods you don't want, and delete them all within the Manager.

#19 Edited by Bollard (5206 posts) -

@zeforgotten: Yeah, I've used NMM for a few mods, but after getting the water improvement one I'm now locked in to it cause if I remove it I run the risk of losing all waterfall textures >.>

Curious if any of these had unwanted side effects.

@mordeaniischaos: I meant the time investment of getting sucked back in to Skyrim again :P and thanks!

#20 Posted by ZeForgotten (10397 posts) -

@chavtheworld: Those files (textures for waterfalls and so on) are the things Steam will download when you pop into the properties menu for the game and hit "verify integrity of game cache" or whatever it's called in English.
Every time I uninstall a mod I just do that to make sure no files are missing and stuff like that. Seems to have worked so far though I'm not really removing mods anymore because.. ugh. I can't go back.

#21 Posted by Bollard (5206 posts) -

@zeforgotten: Only reason I'd remove the water mod now is because there are better ones. Also I have that FXAA post processing mod, which didn't come through Steam Workshop or NMM as far as I can tell (been too long to remember), and while I vastly prefer the lighting/contrast in my Skyrim now the other options available seem tempting enough to switch (the darker nights mod suggested above, for instance). Yet again I have no idea how to revert :P

#22 Edited by Carlos1408 (1489 posts) -

Amazing dude! Wish I had a gaming PC to give mods like this a shot, I love role-playing. :(

#23 Edited by tonyp2121 (169 posts) -

Looks awesome, and been meaning to jump back in to Skyrim but every time I load up the game starts boring me after 1 hour in.

#24 Posted by Giantstalker (1514 posts) -

This is great because while I like modding, for Skyrim there were just too many out there - leading me to say damn it all and just not [re]play the game.

I will likely try these out, and if you have any more recommendations (gear wise) that would truly round out what you've started here.

#25 Posted by Darson (441 posts) -

Awesome list! I look forward to a second part.

#26 Posted by believer258 (11565 posts) -

OK, the thing where cities are now open just got first on my priority list. I thought it would be awesome to see open cities like in Morrowind while playing Skyrim - I didn't think it could actually be done, or would be too hard to do.

Seems like I'm going to wrap up Persona 3, then wrap up the Dark Brotherhood quest, then do this and start a new character. I wanted to play someone focused on the bow-and-arrow, anyway.

Have you heard of Midas Magic?

#27 Posted by Sin4profit (2903 posts) -

woah, the survival stuff alone look like it's worth it. I'll have to check these out when i get the rest of the list.

#28 Posted by McGhee (6094 posts) -

Great idea. Takes New Vegas's survival to the next level. Now I just need a good PC.

#29 Posted by deathstriker666 (1337 posts) -

I have to laugh at how shitty some of these mods sound. I can change a few variables myself, thank you very much. Hell, you don't even need a sandbox kit for that. Anybody who knows how to use a keyboard and read English can edit a few scripts. Not trying to be condescending, but I just think you're giving a few "mods" like Darker Nights too much credit.

#30 Edited by MordeaniisChaos (5730 posts) -
@tonyp2121 said:

Looks awesome, and been meaning to jump back in to Skyrim but every time I load up the game starts boring me after 1 hour in.

My advice would be to start exploring areas you've never been. There's also the option of alternative starts to the game, meaning you don't need to slog through the game's normal intro. Those are great for trying to get back into the game. Other than that, try to find the factions you haven't done, and go do the quests for Jarls. And just explore duder! There are a lot of really cool places to find and explore in Skyrim if you just wander and go into the first interesting looking Dwemer Ruin or cave you find. And don't assume it won't be interesting because "eh, it's just a cave." Some of the coolest moments in Skyrim are in random caves.

The DLC can also help you get back into things, as it gives new content to go through once you get up a bit in levels.

@giantstalker said:

This is great because while I like modding, for Skyrim there were just too many out there - leading me to say damn it all and just not [re]play the game.

I will likely try these out, and if you have any more recommendations (gear wise) that would truly round out what you've started here.

Gear will be going up sometime today. Hopefully early because most of the mods that will be going up today have their own little thumbnails and stuff so I don't have to generate any. I have a good number of mods that add gear, and some of them add a whole lot. And I have one that replaces meshes and textures for "unique" weapons to make them stand out more, which is almost like adding new loot, even if it's just making existing look more aesthetically interesting :)

@believer258 said:

OK, the thing where cities are now open just got first on my priority list. I thought it would be awesome to see open cities like in Morrowind while playing Skyrim - I didn't think it could actually be done, or would be too hard to do.

Seems like I'm going to wrap up Persona 3, then wrap up the Dark Brotherhood quest, then do this and start a new character. I wanted to play someone focused on the bow-and-arrow, anyway.

Have you heard of Midas Magic?

I have heard of it, but in the past when I looked at it I didn't much care for the look of it. I'm actually okay with the Magic in Skyrim, and Skyrim Redone does some significant rehauling of the Magic system already so I'm staying away from most magic mods. I think I have one that adds a spell that basically creates a bunch of stone pillars to shoot out of the ground to trap enemies, but that's about it. Not even sure if I have that anymore, come to think of it. I'll consider looking into it, I'd be curious to see how such mods interact with SkyRE which as I said does some significant rebalancing of vanilla magic.

woah, the survival stuff alone look like it's worth it. I'll have to check these out when i get the rest of the list.

Should be done by tomorrow. The next chunk will deal with the other major mods later today, then the last one will have the smaller more optional/texture mods, any instructions of order of installation and the full load order I use (which is messy but works with these mods). I'll also try to do a video showing off what the game is like with all of the various mods because I need to start putting content on my Youtube channel again.

I have to laugh at how shitty some of these mods sound. I can change a few variables myself, thank you very much. Hell, you don't even need a sandbox kit for that. Anybody who knows how to use a keyboard and read English can edit a few scripts. Not trying to be condescending, but I just think you're giving a few "mods" like Darker Nights too much credit.

Ho-ho! Big man on campus! Look out guys! We got a coder here!

I also described them as simple when they were exactly that.

Darker nights is also one of the few mods that bothers to actually change the light properties at night, instead of weaseling in to change things in a destructive or inefficient way.

It's an awesome mod that does an awesome thing. That's what I care about. It's also a hell of alot easier to say "hey, download this file" than to describe the process of how to achieve the same effect on your own in a blog that already needed spoiler blocks just to keep from being too massive.

Don't like it? Don't use the guide. It's simple.

Also, make a darker nights mod, and show it to me. In fact, make one that's more customizable so I can chose from a large spectrum of levels of darkness from vanilla to completely devoid of light. Then I'll give a flying fuck about what you think deserves to be on someone else's mod list.

Good day sir or madame.

#31 Edited by atomic_dumpling (2451 posts) -

I am going to try this sooner or later, thank you -- sounds pretty great :)

#32 Posted by Tarsier (1056 posts) -

im awating the more to come any word on when ?? ?

#33 Posted by MordeaniisChaos (5730 posts) -

@tarsier said:

im awating the more to come any word on when ?? ?

I'll be doing another one today, and should have the last one tomorrow. Look for today's around 2PM PST. Should be up by then :)

#35 Edited by Bourbon_Warrior (4523 posts) -

@mordeaniischaos: Thank you so much, just reinstalled Skyrim the other day and went to look at mods and had no idea what to install.

#36 Edited by Karkarov (2942 posts) -

Eh you might want to give a bit better warnings on frostfall and other "survival mods". They can make playing the game a serious pain in the ass. If you don't feel immersion is required for you to have fun with skyrim I would not install any survival mods. You don't mention it for example but with "realistic" diseases a mud crab scratch can give you a fatal disease and encountering wildlife period is almost always going to end with you getting a disease of some kind unless you just never get hit. You have to pack a crap ton of remove disease effects and in the end it just becomes busywork of having to constantly remove diseases. Yes many of these settings can be "tweaked" but you get to a point where you look at your mod list and you see 20 then 30 even 50+ mods having to tweak mod by mod because just an insane time sink.

Armor and weapon wise there are only 3 mods worth taking.

1: Immersive Weapons

2: Immersive Armors

3: aMidianborn Book of Silence

If you roll with SkyRe AKA Skyrim Redone I think there is also one other weapon pack it recommends because it has polearms in it, but it is optional. The main thing with SkyRe is you have to be VERY careful about your other mods. SkyRe changes almost everything and there are a boatload of mods out there that will conflict with it.

As an aside you may want to consider talking about ENB's and such. Most of them bake in what darker nights does already while also making the visual appearance of the game well.... better.

God knows I didn't get this screenshot with the in game lighting: It's a Tavern!

#37 Edited by Bane (383 posts) -

You missed two essential tools: BOSS and Wrye Bash.

BOSS is designed to assist mod users in avoiding detrimental conflicts, by setting the correct load order for the plugins they have installed. BOSS also provides thousands of plugin-specific messages, including usage notes, Bash Tag suggestions, requirements, incompatibilities, bug warnings and installation mistake notifications.

What does Wrye Bash do? It makes it safe to try out new mods because it will restore everything to the way it was when you uninstall a mod. It makes more mods compatible with each other by importing information from different mods into a "bashed patch". It allows you to exceed the 255 mod threshold by automatically merging mods for you.

The Bashed Patch is absolutely critical. Any mods that alter the same thing, such as leveled lists, simply will not work correctly without it.

@chavtheworld What I do is make a backup copy of the vanilla Skyrim install. I copy/paste it to somewhere else on my hard drive. That way if you want to start over from scratch just nuke the Skyrim directory under Steam and copy the backup over. If all you want to do is remove a mod or two or three I've found Nexus Mod Manager does a fine job of uninstalling any mods it was used to install.

#38 Posted by JouselDelka (967 posts) -

@karkarov said:

Eh you might want to give a bit better warnings on frostfall and other "survival mods". They can make playing the game a serious pain in the ass. If you don't feel immersion is required for you to have fun with skyrim I would not install any survival mods. You don't mention it for example but with "realistic" diseases a mud crab scratch can give you a fatal disease and encountering wildlife period is almost always going to end with you getting a disease of some kind unless you just never get hit. You have to pack a crap ton of remove disease effects and in the end it just becomes busywork of having to constantly remove diseases. Yes many of these settings can be "tweaked" but you get to a point where you look at your mod list and you see 20 then 30 even 50+ mods having to tweak mod by mod because just an insane time sink.

Yeah, thanks for that I'm gonna avoid any 'realism' mods, they never sounded fun, just more work.

I guess the only survival that really works is the one where the game is designed around it, like the STALKER games, and not an add-on (mod) to an easy game.

#39 Posted by Galiant (2176 posts) -

I love that all of this exists, but I don't have the patience for it.

Thanks for sharing!

#40 Edited by amirite (48 posts) -

Awesome post! and super weird that I am curently in the process of doing the same thing with my Skyrim install. Like, I was just taking a break from messing with my load-order to browse the forums. I'm into the same idea of doing a semi-survival playthrough of Skyim, with all sorts of mods thrown in to surprise me along the way. I'll definitely incorporate some of these into my mix.

I just finished doing a ton of work with the different graphical mods for the game, as well as a ton of .INI tweaking that paid off nicely. I spent a lot of time tweaking the shadows, which can be a bitch. I also sifted through the roughly 5,000,000 ENB lighting mods out there to pick out the best ones I could. I'll probably add some links to this post later on with my results.

#41 Posted by MordeaniisChaos (5730 posts) -

@karkarov said:

Eh you might want to give a bit better warnings on frostfall and other "survival mods". They can make playing the game a serious pain in the ass. If you don't feel immersion is required for you to have fun with skyrim I would not install any survival mods. You don't mention it for example but with "realistic" diseases a mud crab scratch can give you a fatal disease and encountering wildlife period is almost always going to end with you getting a disease of some kind unless you just never get hit. You have to pack a crap ton of remove disease effects and in the end it just becomes busywork of having to constantly remove diseases. Yes many of these settings can be "tweaked" but you get to a point where you look at your mod list and you see 20 then 30 even 50+ mods having to tweak mod by mod because just an insane time sink.

Armor and weapon wise there are only 3 mods worth taking.

1: Immersive Weapons

2: Immersive Armors

3: aMidianborn Book of Silence

If you roll with SkyRe AKA Skyrim Redone I think there is also one other weapon pack it recommends because it has polearms in it, but it is optional. The main thing with SkyRe is you have to be VERY careful about your other mods. SkyRe changes almost everything and there are a boatload of mods out there that will conflict with it.

As an aside you may want to consider talking about ENB's and such. Most of them bake in what darker nights does already while also making the visual appearance of the game well.... better.

God knows I didn't get this screenshot with the in game lighting: It's a Tavern!

A) If you don't want immersive survival mods, you should probably know better. Not my job to decide that stuff for people. I made it clear that the mods make just staying alive more engaging and difficult. I'm not going to list every feature. As for tweaking, with my mod set there are only about 5 mods to tweak and they are very quick to tweak the important things, they have a lot of superficial tweaks. It's not that hard.

Also, there are more than 3, absolutely. JaySuS and Third Era are awesome weapon mods that add a ton of new weapons, and there are some good armor and other random gear bits, so please, don't just say " these are the only ones."
Also, I've been playing with this full mod list, I have yet to find a compat issue.

ENB is also more of a screenshot tool in my opinion. Almost all of them are destructive, and as a result can degrade image quality. Plus, performance is sapped enough by my texture mods, which I care a lot more about than tonemapping. I'll take AA and AO over tonemapping and AO any day.

Again, this is just me doing a list of the mods I use. Please understand that. It's not what YOU think is good or worthwhile, it's the stuff I use and enjoy.

Also, SkyRe does change a lot, which means you don't need 40 mods to slowly overhaul the experience. I've yet to run into a mod that was truly incompatible with it.

#42 Edited by MordeaniisChaos (5730 posts) -

@bourbon_warrior: @tarsier: @atomic_dumpling: @sin4profit: @believer258: @darson: @giantstalker: @chavtheworld: @vman: @jouseldelka: @zeforgotten: @starvinggamer: @butler: Part two is up. Not as much as I'd planned, but to be fair, I now believe everything major is up there. The rest is pretty much the graphical chunk, which I'll put up in a less detailed list because there are a lot of small, very particular mods on that fit into that spectrum and I don't feel like writing up descriptions for things like "High Definition Ivy." I'll probably sort those into "important" and "misc." This should include all of the gameplay relevant mods.

#43 Posted by tourgen (4427 posts) -

great mod list, that looks like fun

#44 Edited by Karkarov (2942 posts) -

A) If you don't want immersive survival mods, you should probably know better. Not my job to decide that stuff for people. I made it clear that the mods make just staying alive more engaging and difficult. I'm not going to list every feature. As for tweaking, with my mod set there are only about 5 mods to tweak and they are very quick to tweak the important things, they have a lot of superficial tweaks. It's not that hard.

Also, there are more than 3, absolutely. JaySuS and Third Era are awesome weapon mods that add a ton of new weapons, and there are some good armor and other random gear bits, so please, don't just say " these are the only ones."

Also, I've been playing with this full mod list, I have yet to find a compat issue.

ENB is also more of a screenshot tool in my opinion. Almost all of them are destructive, and as a result can degrade image quality. Plus, performance is sapped enough by my texture mods, which I care a lot more about than tonemapping. I'll take AA and AO over tonemapping and AO any day.

Again, this is just me doing a list of the mods I use. Please understand that. It's not what YOU think is good or worthwhile, it's the stuff I use and enjoy.

Also, SkyRe does change a lot, which means you don't need 40 mods to slowly overhaul the experience. I've yet to run into a mod that was truly incompatible with it.

Fair enough but you are posting it as a "makes skyrim a new and better game" mod list but not mentioning any of the drawbacks to some mods. Also uh.... ENB's do not "destroy the graphics". I have a pc that won't run into issues running ENB's and playing the game at the same time. It is not a "tool for screenshots" to me. Also I can say without any doubt that the game looks vastly better with them on than with them off. Not all ENB are these insanely over saturated crazy high contrast things you see in videos. Just like there are dozens of mods to just "make nights darker" there are dozens, if not hundreds, of ENB's.

As far as JaySus swords go maybe you should mention most of them look plasticy in actual game, have horribly unbalanced stats, don't mesh well with skyrim to begin with (swords that are modeled on real world knightly orders, torn out of other video games shamelessly) and overall are a bit... weird. Just look at the Jaysus dragon bone sword, it does not look like a skyrim weapon, it looks like it is from WoW or Terra. Third era weapons is great, but it is also 90% included in Immersive weapons. I think only a handful of them are missing and if you install both you have repeats of the same weapon in crafting lists. That said the immersive series is guilty of pulling some Witcher armors and weapons.

Finally if you don't want feedback on your list don't post it. I am not some newb who doesn't know what he is talking about and my feedback is factual and not opinion based, I have actually personally used all but like two mods you have listed. I am not saying they all suck ass, I am just letting people know some of them have drawbacks and issues you aren't mentioning.

#45 Posted by ZeForgotten (10397 posts) -
#46 Edited by Bourbon_Warrior (4523 posts) -

Can anyone recommend a decent ENB?

#47 Posted by TyrellOCP (327 posts) -

It's mod lists like these that make me want to build a PC.

Keep up the good work.

#48 Edited by ZeForgotten (10397 posts) -
#49 Edited by MordeaniisChaos (5730 posts) -

@karkarov said:

@mordeaniischaos said:

A) If you don't want immersive survival mods, you should probably know better. Not my job to decide that stuff for people. I made it clear that the mods make just staying alive more engaging and difficult. I'm not going to list every feature. As for tweaking, with my mod set there are only about 5 mods to tweak and they are very quick to tweak the important things, they have a lot of superficial tweaks. It's not that hard.

Also, there are more than 3, absolutely. JaySuS and Third Era are awesome weapon mods that add a ton of new weapons, and there are some good armor and other random gear bits, so please, don't just say " these are the only ones."

Also, I've been playing with this full mod list, I have yet to find a compat issue.

ENB is also more of a screenshot tool in my opinion. Almost all of them are destructive, and as a result can degrade image quality. Plus, performance is sapped enough by my texture mods, which I care a lot more about than tonemapping. I'll take AA and AO over tonemapping and AO any day.

Again, this is just me doing a list of the mods I use. Please understand that. It's not what YOU think is good or worthwhile, it's the stuff I use and enjoy.

Also, SkyRe does change a lot, which means you don't need 40 mods to slowly overhaul the experience. I've yet to run into a mod that was truly incompatible with it.

Fair enough but you are posting it as a "makes skyrim a new and better game" mod list but not mentioning any of the drawbacks to some mods. Also uh.... ENB's do not "destroy the graphics". I have a pc that won't run into issues running ENB's and playing the game at the same time. It is not a "tool for screenshots" to me. Also I can say without any doubt that the game looks vastly better with them on than with them off. Not all ENB are these insanely over saturated crazy high contrast things you see in videos. Just like there are dozens of mods to just "make nights darker" there are dozens, if not hundreds, of ENB's.

As far as JaySus swords go maybe you should mention most of them look plasticy in actual game, have horribly unbalanced stats, don't mesh well with skyrim to begin with (swords that are modeled on real world knightly orders, torn out of other video games shamelessly) and overall are a bit... weird. Just look at the Jaysus dragon bone sword, it does not look like a skyrim weapon, it looks like it is from WoW or Terra. Third era weapons is great, but it is also 90% included in Immersive weapons. I think only a handful of them are missing and if you install both you have repeats of the same weapon in crafting lists. That said the immersive series is guilty of pulling some Witcher armors and weapons.

Finally if you don't want feedback on your list don't post it. I am not some newb who doesn't know what he is talking about and my feedback is factual and not opinion based, I have actually personally used all but like two mods you have listed. I am not saying they all suck ass, I am just letting people know some of them have drawbacks and issues you aren't mentioning.

See, this is the thing. This isn't designed to give people the perfect one size fits all experience. I can't tell people what the "drawbacks" are because some people like huge tits, big asses, anime eyes, and fucking cats with dicks. Some people want to turn the whole thing into an anime monstrosity. Some people want to cram as much content from other franchises as possible and just make it fandom land.

If people look into the mods instead of just blindly installing them, they'll know what the "draw backs" are. If they don't, they'll find out and should be able to sus out what the problem is and remove or modify it. And none of your drawbacks are "factual" they are based on preference. I like JaySuS for the precise reason that they are a little more realistic. It's gives the game added depth, instead of just being a bunch of weapons that use the designs already in the game. In the real world, weapon design varied hugely. Having more down to earth designs to mix in with the other designs helps increase the spectrum of weaponry.

And ENB is destructive. Not hugely if it's done well, but it absolutely is unless all you care about is AO and better shadows. That stuff is fine, because it's just rendering new effects. ENB stuff looks cool, sure. But it doesn't work 100% of the time, unless it's just adding those effects. Most of which I don't really care about. I get AO through my drivers and shadows with .ini tweaks. I don't need Skyrim looking softer, or the colors changed. I like the way the game looks and I don't really enjoy anything that uses tone mapping in a real-time environment, because of the way it can behave unexpectedly in specific cases. It's not as bad as Arma 2, but ENB isn't for me. Simple. I didn't say it was shitty, just that it is what it is and I don't need or desire it. Tonemapping is ultimately a "destructive" process because it alters the original image. And in a realtime environment, that means it has to account for a hell of a lot of different things, and most ENB profiles, even the good ones, have downsides. Some are poorly suited for brightly lit exteriors, some for scenes with high contrast, others have bad implementations of things like lens flare, the list goes on and on. I've never seen an ENB profile that A) was perfect and B) fit within my performance requirements. I'm already running a lot of 2/4k textures with AA and AO, LOD tweaks, .ini tweaks, etc. Those are the things that have priority for me. If they aren't the priority for you? Go use the ENB you like.

I don't care what anyone does with this list, I just want to share the high quality mods I use. And they are high quality, regardless of your taste in the matter. It's difficult to sort through the hundreds (thousands, I'm sure) of mods to find the good ones. The purpose of this list is to spread the word about the stuff that I personally enjoy and that people like me may find enjoyable. It's not intended to give a 4 paragraph review of every mod's pros and cons. It's a list, and very little more, especially at the moment.

I'm not looking for feedback because this isn't for you, it's just me sharing what I've found to be generally of a high quality, and it should be up to the individuals to discover what they like and dislike about the mods. You telling me that my mod choice is shit doesn't do anything for you or me, because I'm going to keep using the mods I like because I will continue to like them because what I want out of Skyrim is different than what you want. This isn't to tell people the exact way to play Skyrim. It's to show how I did it, and show how people can emulate that experience, add the experiences I have to the others they already added, or even adjust the experience I have.

I'm fine with you not wanting what I want. Kindly stop telling other people that there is something wrong with my list when it's just a list of what I want and enjoy. See, you can't "feedback" that. You can't tell me that I'm wrong about any of that, because it's my taste.

If you feel so strongly about the issue, you should feel free to go make your own list of the mods you think are awesome. I'd love to see what you are running on your game. I'm not however here for you to critique my opinions and preferences. And I'm sure the other fine people of these forums are plenty capable of making their own assessments.

Spoiler blocked to keep from clogging up the thread.

#50 Posted by MordeaniisChaos (5730 posts) -

Can anyone recommend a decent ENB?

I'm going to say "no" but hear me out. I'm not saying that because ENBs are inherently evil. I don't use ENB, but I see the appeal. However, they are all wildly different. Some push for a much more stylized look by blowing out the shadows, adding grain, messing with colors. Others are at the opposite end, keeping things vanilla and really only enhancing rendering a bit. And there are plenty in between.

The best way to find a good ENB? Just look through a bunch of ENBs, sorting from the most endorsed down. This'll give you the best quality stuff up top while still showing you a good variety of the different flavors available.

Here's the link to a search on Skyrim Nexus for "ENB" sorted from most to least endorsed (basically "likes," a la Facebook).

This is the best way to find a good ENB for you. The cool thing about ENB is how many profiles there are for it, so browse through the first couple of pages and find one you like instead of just taking a suggestion and thinking "well, it's better than vanilla!" because there just might be something even better, ya never know :)

Keep in mind performance hits can be significant with some ENB mods, so read the description for an idea of how much that'll be.

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