Someone asked on Twitter…
@shamusyoung heard you were playing Skyrim w/ mods. Mind sharing your complete BOSS / NMM Load Order?
— Andrew Simms (@Mistah_FixIt) January 30, 2014
Well, I never pass up a good excuse to fill the blog with easy-to-produce content like lists. So sure. Let’s go over my list of mods.
Note that installing mods in Skyrim is not something you do in moderation. Either you ignore mods and just play the base game, or you’ve got three dozen of the dang things, because once you start it’s hard to draw the line. There are so many aspects of the game that could be improved, and once you’re over the initial learning curve additional mods are basically free.
Here is what I have loading via the Nexus Mod Manager:
- Hearthfire DLC.
- Reduced distance NPC greetings. Because it’s stupid and immersion-shattering when I sprint by someone at top speed and they respond as if I’ve walked up to them and struck up a conversation. Chatter is good, but incessant absurd chatter is worse than none at all.
- Riverwood enhanced. There are about ten of these, so I’m not going to enumerate them all here in this list. Winterhold, whiterun, Windhelm, Markarth, Morthal, etc. You get the idea.
These mods just increase the clutter density of the stuff in town. More trees, more bushes, more furniture, etc. Makes the place less barren. Not in love with these mods. Once in a while an object is placed so that it screws up the pathing, so NPCs will get caught on new crates or have conversations with a new tree trunk between them.
- Sounds of Skyrim – dungeons This adds a bunch of ambient sounds to the dungeons in the game. Howling, echoing wind. Spooky sounds. Dripping sounds. I never realized how flat and lifeless the soundscape was until I installed this.
- Natural skin. The name is something of a misnomer. It really just modifies the elves so they don’t have sunken eyes, dark spots on their cheeks, and ridged Klingon noses. While I appreciate the Elder Scrolls moving away from stock fantasy elves, MAN the original look of those guys is ghastly.
- Lanterns of Skyrim. There are lanterns placed along the main roads that (somehow) light up at night. Kind of silly and hard to justify, but… eh. I like it.
- Sounds of Skyrim – wilds. Like the dungeons one above, this adds a bunch of ambient sounds to the wilderness.
- Saturation boost. I think game developers are finally getting over their love affair with those “realistic” washed-out color palettes. Until they’re all cured, I’m glad we have this mod, which makes the world so much more vibrant and interesting.
- Ponytail hairstyles. I have no idea what the deal is at Bethesda, but they love to spend MASSIVE textures on dungeon walls that are viewed at a distance and modest-sized textures on faces and hair. This would be tolerable if not for their obsession with making the camera ZOOM IN on people’s faces when you talk to them.
Also, Bethesda is somewhat notorious for having a dozen haircuts in their games, half of which are Mohawks. The rest are things like cornrows, dreadlocks, and three different levels of going bald. But a ponytail, the most practical and likely hair style for and active person of either gender in a medieval setting? You get one or two of those, both of which are unflattering. This mod has a dozen or so gorgeous, interesting, well-animated ponytail styles. ALL my characters use these styles. I never look at the default haircuts unless I’m going with a shaved head look.
- Lush grass and trees. Makes the grass a bit thicker. I don’t know what it does for trees. I forgot I had this installed.
- Improved skill books. Instead of instantly auto-reading a book as you pick it up, the game lets you put books into your inventory, and if the book gives a skill point the description lists what skill. This saves you from the stupid and tedious task of quicksaving before you pick up books.
- Enhanced lighting. I dunno about this one. Josh runs this mod, and it looks amazing. I’m apparently running it, but the game looks the same as vanilla Skyrim. Don’t know why.
- Item recycling. Melt down weapons and armor into ingots, appropriately losing a bit of raw materials in the process. Good for blacksmiths and for people who hate fast-traveling to EVERY. DANG. CITY. to buy out all the shops’ supply of ingots. Because that gets old. It also gives you a loot sink to absorb the gear you find, rather than selling it all to shopkeepers. (See below for more on that topic.)
- Hobbit House. My home of choice. Unlike most player homes, it’s not some sprawling doom fortress fit for a king. It’s just a little place with the basics. I don’t want to showcase my loot and display my wealth. I just want to stick my books on a shelf, put my gear away, cook dinner and fall asleep in a bed, preferably without a lot of hiking in between. Note that the “One Ring” on the mantle piece is a bit much, and its 40% stealth bonus is flagrantly OP. But this is still my favorite player home.
- Main theme by Lindsey Sterling. This is Lindsey Sterling. Her music is a mainstay for me when I’m coding. Her rendition of the Skyrim main theme is marvelous.
- Laintar Dale. This city existed in Skyrim (the place) in Arena, but doesn’t appear in Skyrim (the game) for whatever reason. I added it not because I care about the place, but because I just like having more places on the map where you can spend the night when I’m doing my Frostfall / Hardcore / No Fast Travel games.
- Oakwood. Small village. Added just to have another place on the map.
- Random Alternate Start Dragonborn? Never heard of him. I’m just some travelling adventurer who pays the bills with grave robbing and bandit slaying. This mod Lets you pick from a fixed selection of starting gear and then drops you into a completely random (and by no means safe) starting location. You’ll never see or hear about the main quest unless you visit Helgen to kick it off.
- Auto Unequip Arrows. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started a game thinking, “THIS time I’ll be a mage”, or “THIS TIME I’ll be a fighter”. But an hour later I’m skulking around with a bow, because that just feels so right to me.
This mod makes it so that when you switch to another weapon, the arrows vanish from your outfit. It’s basically for people who admire their hero in third-person view. Not that I would know anything about that.
- Dragon Priest Mask Quest Markers. Once you get your first dragon priest mask, it shows map markers for all the others so you can complete the set. I installed this thinking I’d actually collect them all, but I never bothered.
- Race+ Makes all the various racial features available across all races. So, you can have an elf with red hair or a Nord with dark skin or a Redguard with angled Elf-eyes. It’s nice if you make a lot of characters (maybe because you play hardcore permadeath) and want more variety to keep things interesting.
- Barenziah Quest Markers OH MY GOSH is Skyrim annoying about these. Around the world are these eye-catching little stones. If you ever pick ONE of them up, you will end up taking the quest to collect ALL of them, with no reward until you’re done. The quest requires you to join the sodding Thieves Guild just so you can talk to the person who completes the quest. There are twenty-four in all, and getting them all without a guide would be incredibly difficult and time consuming. This mod saves you from alt-Tabbing out to the wiki by putting quest markers on all of them.
- Frostfall More than all the other mods in this list, THIS one is the real game changer. It takes into account how much skin your armor covers, the weather, the ambient temperature, and even how wet you are. It makes the entire game very survival simulation-ish. You need to wear fur, stay out of the rain, build fires to keep warm, and generally act like cold weather is a dangerous thing.
- Realistic Needs and Diseases. A great companion for Frostfall. Eat and drink to stay alive. Cook food to make stuff that’s more filling for the same weight. Diseases are now a serious threat that will eventually cripple your performance if you let them run unchecked, not a minor nuisance to be taken care of when you feel like it.
- Skyrim UI. This is a big one. So big that it requires an external executable to make it work. It basically makes the console-minded UI into something less painful to use on a PC.
- More Carriages. It never made any sense to me that I could take a carriage to Winterhold, but when I arrived there wouldn’t be one. Not a big deal in the vanilla game, but when you’re playing with Frostfall and no fast travel, details like this are important.
- Rich Merchants. So players can break the economy easily by selling all the loot they get to shopkeepers. And what solution does Bethesda come up with? They give all shopkeepers really tiny bit of money so that you have to visit every merchant in town, then fast-travel to the next town and exhaust all THEIR merchants, and maybe even visit a third town. Brilliant! Players still break the economy, but now it’s super immersion-breaking, tedious, and sends them through dozens of soul-sucking loading screens. I’d say the solution is worse than the problem, but that would imply it was actually a solution. It’s actually just another problem.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand this is a really tough problem with lots of tradeoffs. But this is an ugly hack that just creates an incentive to play in a really un-fun way. This mod ups all the merchants so you can unload all your loot without making more than one or two stops.
For my own part, I’ve solved the “broken economy” problem by simply not using fast travel. This cuts down on the number of trips to town for me, which stops me from selling EVERYTHING I find. That solution isn’t for everyone, though, and for another player “no fast travel” is just a different sort of broken annoying time-sink.
Not loaded: Dawnguard. Because screw Dawnguard and its railroady plot, nonsense dialog, and shopkeeper-murdering vampire spawns. What a waste.
Have not gotten Dragonborn. I hear it’s good, but since I tend to avoid the main quest and all things Dragonborn, I know I’d never get around to experiencing the content.
So that’s my mod list. Hope this was useful to you.
The Brilliance of Mass Effect
What is "Domino Worldbuilding" and how did it help to make Mass Effect one of the most interesting settings in modern RPGs?
The Dumbest Cutscene
This is it. This is the dumbest cutscene ever created for a AAA game. It's so bad it's simultaneously hilarious and painful. This is "The Room" of video game cutscenes.
The Best of 2014
My picks for what was important, awesome, or worth talking about in 2014.
Pixel City Dev Blog
An attempt to make a good looking cityscape with nothing but simple tricks and a few rectangles of light.
Lost Laughs in Leisure Suit Larry
Why was this classic adventure game so funny in the 80's, and why did it stop being funny?