Recommended Skyrim Mods
September 12, 2012 5:40 PM   Subscribe

It's finally time to dive into Skyrim. Can AskMetafilter recommend the best mods, tweaks, updates, tips, etc? I have the PC steam version. I've already downloaded the hi-res pack from steam.
posted by banshee to Computers & Internet (20 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Swearing mudcrabs.
posted by thewalrus at 5:54 PM on September 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

I usually look through the highly rated collections on steam, they're usually full of good stuff. Similarly, Skyrim Nexus' top 100 of all time list is great.

Also, SkyUI takes a bit of effort to set up (and a program called Skyrim Script Extender), but it makes the menus of the game at least 6 times as good. N.B. I couldn't ever get the steam version of SkyUI to work, download it from Skyrim Nexus.
posted by Strass at 5:56 PM on September 12, 2012

I would ask around over at Mefight Club, since the thread on Skyrim over there remains pretty popular.
posted by JauntyFedora at 6:15 PM on September 12, 2012

Yeah the only truly essential mod, I found, was SkyUI. The rest is mod to taste.
posted by Justinian at 6:16 PM on September 12, 2012

posted by thewalrus at 6:19 PM on September 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

This guy takes incredible, incredible, incredible Skyrim screenshots and lists all the mods he uses. Of course, there's not total overlap between "great way to play" and "great way to take pictures" but there's some overlap.
posted by kbanas at 6:22 PM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Be aware that tweaking Skyrim is its own absorbing pastime, make sure you put a deadline on it and start actually playing the game.

SkyUI for sure.

One of the ENB shader mods - it makes everything look five times more beautiful. Fimbulwinter is nice, but there are dozens. They work by putting a d3d file in your main directory (the 'ENB' part) as well as a couple of text files that set the parameters for that d3d file. In practice you unzip the mod into the right place and everything looks gorgeous.

All these tweaks.

This little archery tweak so bows behave properly.

If the shadows look blocky, open your Skyrim launcher and go into your graphics options and turn your shadows to MEDIUM. This is because if you have it to set to anything besides medium and use the fix, it does not seem to work. After you have done that load up a save game, load into the world then quit again. Then find your SkyrimPrefs.ini file in Documents/My Games/Skyrim and change the settings highlighted to 4096 (as shown in the screenshot).

Sounds of Skyrim is a must-have, it comes in Dungeons and Wilds, get them both

Better sorting is really useful, though it takes out a little flavour.

Static Mesh Improvement is a good general graphical tidy up.

Better Dynamic Snow fixes the irritatingly ugly snow.

Balanced Magic is a good relatively subtle fix to magic to make it useful but not overpowered, Midas Magic is its crazy OTT cousin.
posted by Sebmojo at 6:24 PM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've been taking a break from Skyrim until all the DLC comes out and I can get them as a GotY set, but during my initial playthrough, I had really good results with the Skyrim Total Enhancement Project guide to which mods to install, what order to install, and which textures to overwrite to be able to cherry-pick the best parts of the competing third party texture-packs into one giant frankenstein's monster of texture replacement.

From the standpoint of someone who's had experience with modding Bethesda games going back to Morrowind (and had even authored one of the earliest FAQs on the subject over on Bethesda's official forums), I had reservations about letting someone else do all the heavy lifting when it comes to deciding what mods and parts of texture replacers are the best of the best, but having a well-curated guide was very much a timesaving shortcut.

Also, while I haven't personally tried this one out, I hear good things about
Total Voice Control. The downside is that it requires a third party program that isn't free (but is at least half price for people who are getting it to run this mod), but the upside is, the modding community gave PC users this functionality before Bethesda had given it to XBox.
posted by radwolf76 at 9:39 PM on September 12, 2012

And silly me, I forgot Fall of the Space Core, Volume 1, the only mod that I ever installed from Steam Community instead of the Nexus. Spectacularly lore-breaking, and funny enough most players won't care.
posted by radwolf76 at 9:44 PM on September 12, 2012

I would recommend playing for a few months without installing mods. Be careful of any mod that makes the game easier. There are many that give you more power and remove limitations and increase your resistance to damage. They are appealing and seductive but will spoil the game. Be very wary of them. They have a place when you have "finished" the game once and are doing another playthrough with a a new character and have met all of the challenges once in the vanilla version. In fact, there are mods which make the game harder, because it's more fun when it isn't easy. But for a first playthrough, there is nothing wrong with playing straight vanilla Skyrim. You won't miss anything or have a less wonderful experience. Having said that, I have to admit I play with about 100 mods installed. Get the one that removes the clouds from the map. And the one that shows more roads on the map. The NPC editor is pretty great because it lets you make your followers be whatever you want. There's a good one that makes followers not trigger traps in dungeons. The follower wander mod is good because it lets you tell them to chill for while. There's one to enhance Aela which is great, very well thought out. Do the Companions questiline so you can get her as a follower.
posted by conrad53 at 9:47 PM on September 12, 2012

To begin with, you have two options - you can go with the Steam Workshop mods or you can go with Skyrim Nexus mods.

Steam has the benefit of simple integration, just click and install. Nexus has the benefit of far more wide ranging modifications - but requires a little more effort.

Having just gone through a mod install (through Nexus), I simply went through the top 50 most highly recommended mods on the site and selected those I thought interesting.
posted by Hobo at 11:23 PM on September 12, 2012

I'd avoid all the gameplay-changing mods, at least for the first play through.

SkyUI is worth it. A Quality World Map is worth it, but sometimes felt like cheating on the bits where you're supposed to hunt around to find that one hidden path up the mountainside, and can just zoom in on the map instead. (However, wandering around trying to find that one hidden path up the mountainside is kind of an annoying PITA, so it felt like justified cheating.)

Most of the graphics tweaks are like, ok, I guess that looks cool in screenshots, but either bogged down my graphics card or didn't really make a terrible amount of difference in the play experience. But the Sounds of Skyrim mod makes an unbelievable amount of difference. It's amazing to me how paltry the sound design of even AAA level games often is.
posted by ook at 6:44 AM on September 13, 2012

Oh man, I just did this, will have to remember to come back when I'm home and have access to the full list and can add proper links and everything.

I played hundreds of hours on PS3 first, so I did go for some gameplay changing stuff. But maybe it is best to stick to the main game first.

A few extras you may consider though:

Monster Mod - adds dozens of new monsters, great for adding variety as the monster selection seems quite a bit smaller than Oblivion.

Midas Magic - New spells. I haven't used too many of them, some of them seem a bit broken. You do have to jump through some hoops to get each spell (You craft them at a special station in the Riverwood Trader, each spell requires a gold ingot and a few hard to find ingredients so it's not like you're swimming in overpowered magic).

Will come back tonight for sure, I've probably got 50+ mods installed.
posted by yellowbinder at 7:13 AM on September 13, 2012

This list is pretty good.
posted by drugstorefrog at 10:02 AM on September 13, 2012

To begin with, you have two options - you can go with the Steam Workshop mods or you can go with Skyrim Nexus mods.
This isn't an either/or choice, by the way. You can get mods from either or both or neither. The workshop is a bit easier, because it takes care of the installation for you, but with the Nexus Mod Manager, you have a pretty similar ease of use. I mostly use Nexus myself, but a lot of the popular mods are available from either site.

Sebmojo is right about how installing and playing with mods can easily grow into a game of its own (I'm guilty of this myself), so you may want to limit their use to begin with so you can actually play Skyrim! I think the only real "must-have" is the high res texture pack. And Essential Horses, if you don't want to accidentally fall a bit too far and lose your faithful equine companion~

MeFightClub is a great place, by the way.
posted by ashirys at 11:13 AM on September 13, 2012

T3nd0s Skyrim Redone. Indispensable. It fleshes out and expands every skill tree; tactical specializations within weapon groups are possible; stealth is more exciting; speechcraft is now useful; combat is more involved; magic is rebalanced; enemy stats are calculated more fairly, but general challenge is up across the board.

Locational damage. Does what it says. Essential for ranged builds, fun for melee fighters.

Morrowloot. Removes rare armor and weapons from the loot tables and scatters them finely throughout the world. The idea is to reward exploration over grinding.

Shenk Thievery Overhaul. Adds secret routes and open-ended challenges for stealthy types in every major city.

Interesting NPCs. Adds 98 NPCs to the world, 67 voiced with unique and lengthy dialogue. Of inconsistent quality, but definitely makes the world seem fuller.
posted by Iridic at 11:21 AM on September 13, 2012

Ok I'm back. I'm not going to link to Nexus or this will take forever, they're all from there and you can search the names of the ones that sound interesting.

For Everyone / First Timers:

A Quality World Map - more detailed map

Birds of Skyrim - More birds

Categorized Favorites Menu - Better Favorites sorted by spell category - note that any add on spells/weapons will go in one Other tab

Dynamic Merchants - The more you deal with merchants the more they will have for you

Economics of Skyrim - Revamps economics including regional differences in item values

Enhanced Blood Textures - obv

Enhanced Night Skyrim - Pretty!

Footprints - Adds footprints for you and NPC in snow

Immersive Skyrim Thunder - I could never get Sounds of Skyrim to download properly, this is amazing though

Improved Combat Sounds - obv

Lanterns of Skyrim - Pretty lanterns

Leazers Open Lock - Sometimes you just want an open lock spell, you know?

Lush Grass - Pretty grass!

Lush Trees - Pretty Trees!

Midas Magic - Spells in Skyrim - Mentioned earlier, lots of new spells

Natural Skyrim Rain - Improved rain visuals and sounds

No More Blocky Faces - Improved faces

Pets of Skyrim - Adds cats and dogs. Cats look a little wonky. Dogs can be followers and are unkillable, good companions!

Populated Cities - More NPCs in cities

Real Wildlife - Skyrim - Adds a lot of variation to standard critters like wolves, sabre cats, elk etc.

RPG PROJECT- Jobs of Skyrim - This adds lots of odd jobs - deliveries, assasinations, crafting, etc. I find a lot of words aren't capitalized that should be so it's a little immersion breaking though.

Skyrim Bigger Trees - Bigger trees! Makes for a more old foresty feel.

Skyrim Flora Overhaul - Prettier stuff

Skyrim HD - 2K Textures - Yup

Skyrim Monster Mod - Lots of different new monsters

Skyrim Monster Mod Additions - New Items - Items/ingredients to go along with said monsters

Skyrims Unique Treasures - Bunch of unique loot items

SkyUI - User Interface improvements

Sounds of Nature Redux - Water and Fire - More nice sounds

Static Mesh Improvement Mod - More texture improvements

Travellers of Skyrim - More people on the roads, including lots of travelling merchants and mercenary companions

Unofficial Skyrim Patch - Lots of little fixes I think

W.A.T.E.R. - Water And Terrain Enhancement Redux - Pretty water!

If this isn't your first rodeo:

Alternate Start - Live Another Life - Start the game in a number of different locations/scenarios. I'd never met the Argonians on the Windhelm docks until it started me fresh off the boat. Really nice for character immersion. You can start the main quest by asking around about an incident at Helgen.

Monster Wars - Battling armies of monsters in the wilderness. You probably want to keep this off until your character has developed as it's easy to get overwhelmed.

Moonpath to Elsweyr - This is a sort of expansion, new jungle area/monsters/questline. I haven't actually checked it out yet but it comes highly recommended.

Perks Unbound - A bit of a cheat, you can take perks you have the skill for without taking prerequisite perks.

SkyRe - Massive overhaul of lots of stuff including perks system. Combines some skill trees and adds new ones. There are a LOT of perks and some require more than 100 skill points so you will need...

Skyrim -Community- Uncapper - Skills no longer have level caps

Skyrim Monster Mod More-Spawns - If you want to fight even more monsters everywhere. Can get out of hand if at low level.

WARZONES - Civil Unrest - Same as Monster Wars except these will all be various factions of soldiers fighting it out.
posted by yellowbinder at 4:33 PM on September 13, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks everyone!
posted by banshee at 8:33 AM on September 14, 2012

Someone just posted this massive list on Reddit.
posted by yellowbinder at 9:27 AM on September 24, 2012

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