Essentials

updated December 11th, 2019

WARNING: THIS GUIDE WILL NOT WORK WITH SE.
Oh, hello! I didn't see you there. Welcome to The Official Elder Scrolls General Modding Guide: The Overhauled Editon!
In this extensive guide, we will teach you how to make Skyrim both fun AND good looking! First things first, I'm gonna have to teach you how to install mods and how each file works. The perfect way for a scrub like you to efficiently organize and sort your mods, is a mod organizing program! There are several of these programs we can use. You can even sort them manually if you're experienced or bold enough!
Remember to ALWAYS read the mod description on how to install, activate, and use the mod if you don't know. The same rule apply to README's in the mod packages.
 
In this section, we will discuss:
-Mod Organizing
-Essential Mods
-Tools and Utilities
-Skyrim Memory Patch
-Performance Mods
-Extra UI Mods
 

Quick Questions

Q: I don't like this guide, are their any other guides that are similar to this one?
A: We have a list of various other modding sites with their own guides and mod lists. Click on the Skyrim Guide section to check them out!
 
Q: I don't like guides like these, are there any overhauls that are quick and easy?
A: Try PerMa.
 
Q: I don't like PerMa, is there anything else?
A: Try SkyRe.
 
Q: I don't like Skyre, is there  anything else?
A: Try Requiem.
 
Q: I don't like Requiem, is there anything else?
A: Those are pretty much the only big overhauls out right now. Play the game vanilla with a few patches and essential mods.
 
Q: I don't like that either.
A: Then try Enderal! And if you don't like that then you're out of luck friend!
 

Enderal - The Shards of Order

From the guys who made Nehrim for Oblivion, Enderal is a Total Conversion for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim -  a new game based on Skyrim's core architecture, game-play, engine, and assets. It has been in the making for 4 1/2 years, with over 30 000 hours of work, on a completely non-commercial basis. It runs independently from Skyrim and provides a completely new game-experience with a new land with it's own lore and different biomes, deeply overhauled game-play and a professionally voiced story-line with a dark and mature narrative.

Mod Organizing

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Pros:
-Easy installation
-Simple interface
-Nexus friendly mod downloads
-Baby's first mod manager

Vortex

 

Cons:
-Only works when the Nexus works which is never
-Little to no customization
-Does not work well with SteamWorkshop mods
-Does not like loose file mods
-Saves mods in a different folders
-When it tries to self update, you can't do ANYTHING
-Tells you to update incorrect versions

Vortex is the new manager developed by the Nexus people, who hired the original MO dev to do it. It has an Alpha release open to the public.

Now, I'll be very sincere here, I was disappointed when I first saw and used Vortex.

It being developed by the same person as the original Mod Organizer gave me hope that we would be getting something equal if not better than Mod Organizer, but when I first used it, I realized that Vortex is just a re-skin of the Nexus Mod Manager.

Gopher has a video series where he explores all the features in Vortex.

 
Pros:
-Organized interface
-Tons of options
-Mod profiles to switch between
-Save game manager
-Alerts you of conflicts
-Can move NMM mods to Mod Organizer
-INI editor
-Great for anyone!
-When I mean anyone, I mean scrubs
Cons:
-Mod conflicts can show up incorrectly
-Mods must be packed accordingly with game profiles
 

Mod Organizer

 

Mod Organizer is a great tool for someone who uses a lot of mods for Skyrim! The amount of things you can do in this program is huge! You can edit mods and INI files on the fly and not have to worry about overwrites and extra files. The best part about this is that you can basically organize your mods into separate games. For instance, you can have one profile for lots of combat mods and immersion while also having another profile with tons of graphics mods with lore breaking joke mods. It's like having the best of both worlds! The downside is that it takes a lot of time to figure out how everything works and how organization plays a deep role in all of this. But I'm assured that you will be confident and smart enough to do it! It's well worth learning and it does everything that the Nexus Mod Manager does and more! For more Mod Organizer help, click on the Link button!
Pros:
-Steam integrated
-Comes with the game
-Easy mod installation
-SteamWorkshop only mods
 
 
Cons:
-SteamWorkshop mods only come in BSA's
-Some mods take a LONG time to download and configure
-Hates SKSE
-Doesn't do a lot

SteamWorkshop/ SkyrimLauncher

 

The Steam integration into Skyrim is Steam's solution to modding websites. You can easily download mods and have the installed to your game as quick as possible! The downsides of only using  this is awful. Usually a mod gives you options and ompatibility fixes, but if you use the SteamWorkshop, you can't really get those since it's all packed into one BSA and one ESP. On top of that, editing load order is a pain in the ass. You can't click and drag groups of mods. Instead, you have press the up and down arrows on ONE selected mod to move it. Not to mention that some mods might have conflicts and the launcher won't tell you of any conflicts. The one plus side to using this is SteamWorkshop exclusive mods. Some mods are exclusive to SteamWorkshop mods for one reason or another and are usually really good. So to put it bluntly, ONLY USE THIS TO DOWNLOAD STEAMWORKSHOP EXCLUSIVE MODS.
Pros:
-MUST USE tools for modding
-Bashed patches
-ESP merging
-INI editor
-Savegame organizer and editor
-Conflict alerts AND missing Master file alerts
-Screenshot organizer
-Nexus friendly
- Old layout may not appeal to casuals
 
Cons:
-It doesn't matter you're gonna have to use this anyways
 
 

Wrye Bash

 

Wrye Bash is one of the oldest running mod managers. Formerly known as Wrye Mash, Wrye Bash is a very complex mod manager that is sorta like Mod Organizers big brother without the profile management. You can sort your mods and load order, get conflict notifications, edit INIs, and organize your saves. There are a few key features that seperate this from the rest of the mod managers. First off, you can merge mods and make bashed patches. A bashed patch is when you combine features with several different mods and make them not conflict or interfere with each other. It's a really great tool for someone who likes variety in there game. If you wanna play Skyrim the right way, you MUST use this. You don't have to use the mod organizing itself, but you have to use the extra tools it provides! What's a Bashed patch you ask? Well a bash patch is a ESP file that combines leveled lists. Leveled lists are basically the item and loot lists given to NPCs. Usually an item mod overwrites this. So if you have several mods that add items to NPCs, they're just gonna keep overwriting each other and you'll only get an item list from one mod! With a Bashed patch, you can combine these leveled lists together so that they're all compatible and you can have NPCs with different item mods on them. 

Manual

 

Pros:
-DIY
-Only limitation is yourself
-You can do "almost" anything!
-It's what ALL the cool kids use!
 
Cons:
-Requires one of the other mod managers to actually be viable.
IE: WryeBash or SteamWorkshop
-Can't edit load order without the SteamLauncher or a mod manager
-Complex for beginners
 
Manually installing mods is the way to go for most people. It's rewarding to learn and experience how to mod a game as big as Skyrim. It's probably the best way to start out modding, and then working your way to organizing mods with other programs and utilities. The reason is because once you learn the basics,  they lead you to complex fixes and organization which require programs such as Mod Organizer or Wrye Bash. You can't change the load order without using a program to do it. Some might find manually installing mods to be the hardest way to manage your mods, but this is how most people learned when Skyrim first came out and there weren't any mod managers out yet. It was all about trial and error with mods and finding the right combination that wouldn't crash your game every 30 seconds. If you want to learn what loose files are and how to install mods, click on the Skyrim button!

Essential Mods

This is a list of mods that are a MUST HAVE for anyone. These mods don't go too in-depth and work with any kind of rig. You'll see some major and significant changes in your game because these mods fix a lot of things that Bethesda left out or were too lazy to properly fix.
 

Unofficial Skyrim Legendary Edition Patch

 

The Unofficial Patches are a MUST HAVE, no exceptions. If you have all the DLC, which you should, the only patch you need is this. This mod fixes plenty of bugs and conflicts in the game that will make you say to yourself, "How have I been playing Skyrim without these?"

SkyUI

A complete overhaul of the UI in skyrim (except for the crafting menu). This changes the console like user interface into a clean and PC friendly one. This also overhauls the favorites and hotkeys with outfits and lists you can swap on the fly! It even includes MCM which many mods use now. MCM is a short for Mod Configuration Menu, which was also used as a separate mod in Fallout:NV. This allows you to customize mods even more with an in-game menu that automatically changes your settings in an instant. If you don't use this mod, then I suggest you question your existence on this planet.

Crash Fixes

A plugin that helps fix some common crashes that revolve around some other SKSE plugins or just Skyrim in general.

Bug Fixes

Similar to Crash Fixes, Bug Fixes fixes some bugs that are related to the engine. This mod also includes Fix Lip Sync so you do not need that mod anymore.

MFG Console

During the end of Skyrim patch 1.8, people found out console commands that allowed you to edit facial expressions! It was an amazing discovery! Everyone found a way to use this whether it be screenshots or videos. Then a tragedy occurred, patch 1.9 came out which destroyed this feature, as well as some of the lip synching. Bethesda even said that nothing was broken, but it was probably more sweet little lies. Up until now, all hope was lost for MFG to be fixed. But then this mod came out and fixed it and made it even better! With a new console command UI that's more sleek and a MFG menu to easily edit faces. This is a great fix and tool for those who want to take screenshots, make videos, or have fun making goofy faces! Now this also comes with player blink fix which means that your character CAN ACTUALLY BLINK LIKE EVERYONE ELSE.

Optimized Vanilla Textures

Fixes a few errors that were left in the Official High Resolution patch. As well as optimize some of the game's other textures which improves performance but barely takes anything away from the looks.

Precache Killer

This is a godsend of a mod.  It keeps the game from CTD when you use showracemenu or when you have too many hair mods installed at once. So now you can use all those high-res warpaints and over 200 hairs without having the game explode!

Main Font Replacement

Gives you a various amount of options to change your games font.

USMP

Unofficial Skyrim Modder's Patch is a large, community-collected compilation of fixes for the many bugs, inconsistencies, and errors that are either completely visual (placement of objects, or object models not being set up correctly) or only come to light from a modded install of Skyrim and its DLCs. 

Tools and Utilities

These are programs that are not mod managers or anything of the sort, but required tools that are needed for some mods.
Now not all of these tools are "required" for the user, such as the save game cleaner, but we recommend you look at all of these.

Conclusion

Do not use NMM. Only use SteamWorkshop for exclusive mods. Use Mod Organizer and Wrye bash to organize mods and make bashed patches, but doing things manually is the best way to learn faster. Manually install graphics mods and ENB. Download all of the essential mods and run them in LOOT. Run FNIS anytime you add a new animation mod. Always use SKSE to run and play your game. Use TES5Edit to fix dirty edits and clean old mods. Use DyndoLOD when you want to make your LODs look better.  DO NOT INSTALL DOZENS OF MODS AT ONCE AND ASSUME THEY WILL ALL WORK TOGETHER. Install mods in small groups so you can test for any conflicts, requirements, or incompatibilities. 
 
And that's all your basic needs for Skyrim Modding. Be sure to follow the rest of the guide or check out each individual section for something that interests you!
 
Skyrim Script Extender - SKSE

Skyrim Script Extender - SKSE

This is a handy little modder's resource that expands the scripting capabilities of Skyrim. It does so without modifying the executable files on disk, so there are no permanent side effects. Many complex mods use this and require it. Read the Readme for a step by step installation tutorial.

LOOT

LOOT

LOOT is designed to assist mod users in avoiding detrimental conflicts, by setting the correct load order for the plugins they have installed. Always run LOOT after you install new mods to make sure everything is in order and compatible.

Skyrim Script Dragon

Skyrim Script Dragon

Scriptdragon is a similar mod to SKSE, but not many mods require it. It's a Skyrim engine extender, which allows to use Skyrim Papyrus script functions in 3rd party ScriptDragon plugins.

Skyrim Community Uncapper

Skyrim Community Uncapper

A little utility that\s required for many gameplay mods. The default settings of this plugin will unlock the skill level caps of 100 and push them to 10000. This allows you character to be able to level up almost forever. You will also get benefits from skills above level 100, up to level 199 including enchantment bonuses.

Fores New Idles in Skyrim - FNIS

Fores New Idles in Skyrim - FNIS

Also known as FNIS. This is a tool that is required for any animation mods. You will most likely use this mod. If you don't understand how this works, please check out the tutorial video for FNIS in the tutorial section.

XP32 Maximum Skeleton Extended - XPMSE

XP32 Maximum Skeleton Extended - XPMSE

A multi purpose skeleton for animation in Skyrim. Include new skeleton structure that many character editor mods use such as ECE and Racemenu and other animation mods.

TES5Edit

TES5Edit

TES5Edit is a great tool for those who strive for a game without crashes and for those who like their mods clean and without conflicts. What this tool does is clean esp and esm files of any "dirty edits". These are edits that are not supposed to be there and were probably left by the mod author by mistake. If you want to learn more, please check out the tutorial video for TES5Edit in the tutorial section. A word of warning, do NOT clean the Unofficial patch.

TES5LODGen

TES5LODGen

Simply put, it generates LOD textures of your game to be used along with DynDOLOD.

Dynamic Distant Objects LOD

Dynamic Distant Objects LOD

Dynamic Distant Objects LOD (DynDOLOD) is a complicated set of tools based on TES5Edit and TES5LODGen to automatically create a Skyrim mod based on the load order which adds distant LOD for objects to Skyrim. By combining DynDOLOD with TES5LODGen users can create drastically enhanced traditional static LOD plus tree LOD and a new, optional dynamic distant object LOD in a few "simple" steps. We recommend you watch the many tutorial videos made for this since things get REALLY complicated.

Savegame Script Cleaner

Savegame Script Cleaner

A nifty little program that cleans up scripts in your saved games.

NPC Visual Transfer Tool

NPC Visual Transfer Tool

Take any humanoid NPC you find in-game and perfectly transfer its visuals onto any other NPC by creating an override and modifying its record info. This also allows users to enjoy any fully fleshed out NPC mod (custom voices/quests etc.) without worrying about the visuals as they can change it to whatever suits th-...and holy shit...IS THAT COGMOR?!

ENB

ENB

Makes your game look really pretty. Click on the link to learn more!

ENB Organizer

ENB Organizer

Are you unsure of your ENB and like to see what the Grass is like on the other side without having the hassle of deleting files all the time? This is a neat tool that works like Mod Organizer where you can change ENB's at a whim without having to deal with the hassle.

Multiple Floors Sandboxing

Multiple Floors Sandboxing

This is a little tweak to change the global game settings GMST fSandboxCylinderTop from 150 to 576, and fSandboxCylinderBottom from -100 to -576. As a result, the NPC can detect things (markers for various actions) roughly 2 floors above and below during their sandboxing behavior within their sandbox radius, so they will go up or down the floors to use those things (furnitures, markers, etc.).

Load Game CTD Fix

Load Game CTD Fix

This mod makes some tweaks so that when you click on CONTINUE or LOAD in the main menu it will load your save game in an alternative manner that should prevent crashing when loading save games without the complexity of those other methods.

Which quest's item

Which quest's item

Modifies the drop quest item message to tell you which quest the item belongs to. Can be configured to allow you to drop quest items.

Copy and Paste in Console

Copy and Paste in Console

This mod makes it possible to paste text copied to the clipboard into the Skyrim console. No ESP file.

 

Skyrim Memory Patch

Ever since the game has been released, Skyrim has always ran like shit even; for the best of computers. Crashes, freezes, and all of the sort were not bias to anyone who dared to play Skyrim on PC, whether it be a casual playing on a laptop or a hardcore neckbeard playing with two Nvidia Titans. However, in the age of lies, we have found a way to make Skyrim not crash because of memory issues. Skyrim Memory Patch is utility plugin that fixes Skyrim's memory cap. To use it, you'll need SKSE. ENBboost is highly recommended for those who have decent computers and can run an ENB. There's a lot to cover about this memory patch. So if you want to read more, check out the enbdev site for the full page! Thankfully it's already been added to SKSE you don't have to worry about a separate download! Need more info? Check out the STEP guide on SKSE via the Link button to learn how to set it up and more!

Performance Mods

Quick and simple mods that will help with your game's performance. These mods are aimed for people with REALLY shitty rigs or people who don't really care about small details in their graphics.
Whiterun Texture Memory Usage reduct

Whiterun Texture Memory Usage reduct

A simple mod used to reduce VRAM usage in Whiterun by replacing a useless mesh that is only found in Whiterun. Best part? You don't lose any quality in textures and no esp needed.

Skyrim Performance Plus

Skyrim Performance Plus

Do you get shitty FPS when you enter The Reach? Then this mod is for you! This mod basically lowers the quality ,or removes the entirety, of all of falling leaves, snow, rain, and pine needle effects. If you care more about performance and less about weather, use this!

Remove Underwater Grass

Remove Underwater Grass

Removes underwater grass that you can usually not see in skyrim because people don't swim a lot. It's a great mod because would mods that add extra grass density, it also adds more unnecessary seaweed that you don't need at all.

 

Extra UI Mods

Skyrim's UI was one of the many problems for the game on PC. The UI is too clean compared to the previous games and was built for console use. Probably to attract the "new age" Apple lovers. SkyUI fixes this issue, but here are some extra mods you can add to liven up your interface a little more.
SkyHUD

SkyHUD

Toggle HUD elements on or off, scale sizes, change positions and swap select elements with alternative version. Featuring dot crosshair, slim compass, alternate ammo display, and built-in support for font mods. Now with detached compass markers.

Sovngarde - Mist's Font Replacer

Sovngarde - Mist's Font Replacer

A custom font replacer that looks really good and fits with Skyrim's overall aesthetic.

Quick Loot

Quick Loot

Adds a similar mini looting menu similar to the one in Fallout 4.

KenMOD - Navi cursor

KenMOD - Navi cursor

HEY LISTEN!

KenMOD - Alternate Skyrim cursors

KenMOD - Alternate Skyrim cursors

Adds 9 new cursors that you can replace.

Add Item Menu

Add Item Menu

Have trouble finding that ONE item from that ONE mod with a really hard name? Add Item Menu allows you to search through ESM and ESP files to look for any new items the mod has added.

Jaxonz Diagnostics

Jaxonz Diagnostics

This handy little utility tests, warns, and helps you resolve SKSE and SkyUI issues within the game's MCM. It also shows SKSE INI settings with explanations and recommended values.

Glass UI

Glass UI

This mod works sort of like a plugin to sky UI. It changes the game interface to look like white glass, and adds cool audio fx to UI actions. It is in a sense a re-skin of sky UI.

No Poison Dialogues

No Poison Dialogues

Removes the pesky confirm poison dialog and replaces others for HUD messages.

Jaxonz Named Save

Jaxonz Named Save

This little mod allows you to actually name your saves as well as set defaults like location and timestamp.

Viewable Faction Ranks

Viewable Faction Ranks

Using a MCM, you can now see what factions you're apart of as well as your ranks in each. Just another feature that was in Morrowind and Oblivion, but not in Skyrim.

Extended UI

Extended UI

Extended UI aims to add complimentary SkyUI looking menus to other menus uneffected by it such as the skills and sleeping menu

iActivate

iActivate

iActivate will remove the graphical icon of what button to press to activate an object that you are looking at. Such a simple change, but does so much for immersion.

moreHUD

moreHUD

Now you can just target an object such as a weapon, piece of armor, or an ingredient and see information about the object. In addition, you can see what your carry weight is so you no longer have to guess and find out later that you're carrying too much.

Helmet Toggle

Helmet Toggle

Hate to wear helmets but want their stats and bonuses? With Helmet Toggle, you can wear any head gear you want and make it disappear! Using the MCM Toggle option or Toggle Hot key, will cause the equipped helmet to have it's head, hair and ear slots removed, leaving the circlet and any other slots in place. The helmet is then "refreshed" through equipping then removing a blank object. When Toggled a second time or unequipped/removed from inventory, the helmet will revert to it's original slots.

Less Intrusive HUD

Less Intrusive HUD

Less Intrusive HUD II allows you to tweak / change pretty much every element in the vanilla HUD. You can move and resize any elements you want to be tweaked with ease with MCM.

More Hotkeys

More Hotkeys

Adds a various amount of options for new hotkeys. You can customize what buttons do what, whether you press, double tap, or even hold a key, and what hand your equipment goes to on a certain hotkey.

Immersive HUD

Immersive HUD

The aim of iHUD is to provide the immersive feel you get from having no HUD, whilst keeping the usefulness of having one. It takes the permanently visible HUD elements such as compass and crosshair, and hides them when not needed.

A Matter of Time

A Matter of Time

Adds a little clock to your main HUD. It tells you what time is it and has two different clocks that you can choose between.

KenMOD - Time on loading screen

KenMOD - Time on loading screen

Adds a clock to Skyrim's loading screens. The time on is it is NOT your in-game time, but your real life time. This is a good reminder for getting your ass off of your chair and go do something else.

SkyUI-Away

SkyUI-Away

You don't like SkyUI? Well you can remove it with this!

 

FAQ

Q: Why isn't this or that mod in the guide?
 
A: This guide was made specifically so that all or atleast most of the contents on this page will work together without any compatiblity issues unless notified on the mod page.
 
Q: What is a SkyProc Patcher?
 
A: SkyProc is a Java program used in some mods. It's most commonly used to record and compile settings for a mod without all the trouble of making 20 different ESP files. Mods like ASIS and Automatic Variants use this program to customize their setting easily. For more info, check out the UESPWiki page.
 
Q: Will you be adding more to these guides?
 
A: Of course!  We'll try to keep all the guides up to date and will notify everyone if something has changed or has been added on. We also accept submissions if the mod is good enough!