The Beginner's Guide to the Galaxy...I mean Modding

Don't Panic

A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.

Trust me when I say that the scope, creativity, and genius of my foolish thoughts and actions should not be underestimated. This is no more evident than when I decided to start modding, and is in no way the fault of the mod authors that they couldn’t foresee the sheer number of ways that I, and others, could find to mess up installing/using their wonderful creations (or, just as likely, they didn’t care, and honestly why should they? They put all this time and effort into creating something amazing, so we can and should put the time and effort into learning how to use it). So, here is what to do, what not to do, suggestions on other ways to do, tools to learn how to do, ways to fix when you forgot to do, and much more. (can I interest you in another “do”?)

I know you want to play a modded Skyrim game, and you want to do (couldn’t resist) it now, but I implore you to take some time to read through this page and the resources linked below. If you don’t, I’m not going to yell at you, but you are disappointing Uncle Sheo and he might not share any cheese with you. But seriously, I know that there will be some people that won’t read most of this, so don’t forget the HELP page exists. It’s not comprehensive by any means, but it’s a start. And a word of warning, if you don’t read these resources, or at very least the mod descriptions, and you try to ask for help on Reddit/Discord, you most likely won’t get many helpful responses.

Disclaimers: some of these might be obvious or unnecessary based on your computer experience, some of these might be things that I have found helpful but others might not, and there is an insane amount of other steps that I could have included, but really those extend beyond what I consider “beginner”.

Also, this is a lot of information, so be warned and take breaks often. You know, hydrate and stay active and all that good advice.

I had never modded anything before 2020, so when I first decided that this was something I wanted to learn about, I went where I always go with questions: Reddit and Google. While both of those have a lot of information, it is not always easy to find exactly what you need, especially when you don’t KNOW what you need. So here is a list of things that I had questions about, wish I had known when I started, or general observations I have had (many of these are based on my opinions, so there will undoubtedly be those that disagree with some of this):

  • NexusMods is the main location for downloading mods, but there are others
  • Use a mod manager – the main options are Mod Organizer 2 and Vortex
  • There are limits to modding, based on your computer set-up, which version of the game you have, and the actual game engine
  • By adding mods to the game, ideally through a mod manager, you are editing or adding to the game
  • Mods contain some or all of the following (for more information on these, check out the Glossary page):
    • Plugins
    • Textures, meshes, models, and other “visuals”
    • Scripts
    • Ini files
  •  The scope of your modding experience is up to you:
    •  How much time and energy are you willing to put into learning and DOING (and fixing)?
    • Are you someone that likes to dig in and problem solve?
    • How tech savvy are you?
  • You have a few options for how to proceed:
    • You can use Wabbajack to install a curated modlist with almost all of the work done for you
    • You can follow a Modlist Guide where you do the work that someone else explains to you step-by-step
    • You can try and create your own modlist by using resources, such as those provided here and by other guides and videos
    • You can do none of that and try to figure it out yourself (good luck and may Talos be with you)
  •  There are SO many resources out there, and while some are outdated and some are actually spreading misinformation, the issue for many new modders is that they don’t even know where to start. My suggestions are read everything you can find (but remember that things constantly evolve and people make mistakes):
    • Join the skyrimmods subreddit – specifically check out all the resources and lists they have
    • Read through a modlist guide or three (Lexy, Phoenix, and Skyrim Enhanced are my suggestions) even if you don’t plan on following them
    • Watch some YouTube videos
    • Follow some Discord servers
    • The best way to learn about modding is to become part of the community, to read all that you can, and to just start doing
  • Final notes:
    • You can only use LE mods for LE, SE for SE (unless you port them)
    • You can only have so many plugins of certain types (see the FAQ section for more info)
    • You cannot run the game if you are missing a master (if plugin B depends on plugin A, plugin A is a master); think of it as trying to watch a movie on Netflix, without a tv/computer/phone…or an internet connection…or a subscription. Or think of it as trying to play modded Skyrim without owning the game. Skyrim is the master that all other plugins rely on.
    • There are many helpful people out there, but it is quite literally no one’s job to help you, so be respectful and if asking for help, provide as much information as you can.

 

Now, you have three (main) options for how you want to proceed, but no matter which you choose, you should always start with a Clean Install.

  1. Clean out anything you have ever done with Skyrim before. This can be skipped if you know what you are doing, but I’m guessing you are in this section because you don’t. What does “clean” mean? To me, it means uninstall Skyrim, any mod manager you have (Vortex, Mod Organizer, NMM) and remove all related files.
  2. (backup anything you don’t want deleted; my suggestion on what this could include are screenshots you want to save and any downloaded mods you aren’t sure you can download anymore. Pretty much everything else should be deleted because we are going to be replacing it to make sure it is done properly. I usually just save both things – screenshots and mod downloads – to their own folders at the root directory, so in my case D.)
  3. Uninstall Skyrim in Steam (go to the game in your library and select the gear in the upper right-hand section under the game logo; I suggest clicking on “Properties” and going to the “Local Files” tab)
  4. Delete local game content (on the same tab in Steam, select “Browse Local Files” and then remove the folder completely) (this is also a quick way of finding your file directory if you can’t remember where it is; we will need to access it again multiple times in the future)
  5. Using file explorer on your computer, navigate to the Skyrim folder under Documents (most likely found at “C:\Users\{insert-user-name}\Documents\My Games) and delete that folder.
  6. Using file explorer on your computer, navigate to the Skyrim folder under AppData (most likely found at “C:\Users\{insert-user-name}\AppData\Local) and delete that folder.
  7. I am going to suggest you also uninstall/delete anything you added relating to a mod manager. I won’t go into specifics here because there are a number of mod managers available, but you can always search for more information if you are unsure. If enough people inquire, I’ll add more information here.
  8. Videos:
  9. Take a deep breath and enjoy the feeling of having accomplished a deep clean, and then install Skyrim via Steam. Run it once so that you can make sure all the defaults are established. I highly suggest changing the settings so that the game doesn’t update automatically.
    • In Steam, go to “Properties” on the Skyrim page.
    • On the “Updates” tab, select “Only update this game when I launch it.”
  10. At this point, determine what level of modding you want to achieve. This can (and undoubtedly will) evolve as you learn more and as you fall into the abyss that is Modding Skyrim (cue theme song). But, it is still important to have a general idea of what you want to achieve. Maybe you have played the vanilla game a dozen times and want a completely brand-new experience. Maybe you watched a YouTube video and you aspire to screen archery. Maybe you like vanilla but want a few sprinkles or caramel sauce (…and now I want ice cream). After determining a general goal, ask yourself a few other questions:
    • Do I care about quality graphics or performance or do I want a compromising mix?
    • Do I want to or, more accurately, am I WILLING to spend a significant amount of time learning and actually creating a more involved setup?
    • Or do I want to go the Wabbajack route?
    • Does my “brand new experience” need to include gameplay overhauls, expanded and new questlines, and/or whole new worlds?
    • What about a new fantastic point of view?
    • There is no one to tell you “NO” or where to go…wait a second, that’s what I’m supposed to be doing!

Ready to pick which option you want? Not sure? Read through all the sections if you want an idea of what each entails.
If you decide to go the automated installer route, Wabbajack is for you:

  1. Download and install Wabbajack and browse their gallery to see which modlist you want to try out. I also suggest you join the Wabbajack Discord. You can see which mods are included in a particular modlist by either looking at the manifest in the Wabbajack program or the archive search on the gallery page (some modlists include a spreadsheet with their readme, as well).
  2. While the general download process is the same across all options, each modlist has it’s own instructions and I highly suggest you read through all of the specific readme before even beginning. Let’s use the one I last downloaded as an example: Living Skyrim 2.
  3. First off, I check the Discord to see if the list is down; sometimes they take them down to update, but they usually are back up in a few days if not hours.
  4. If it appears to be working, I open up Wabbajack and go to “Browse Modlists” and select the one I want to download. There is a link to the gallery page on Wabbajack and a download button. All modlists show a download size and installation size when you hover over them. Make sure you have enough space available (this does NOT include your Skyrim game, that is in addition to the modlist).
  5. For Living Skyrim 2, I read the entire readme and then downloaded and started the installation. It will take a while, but nowhere near as long as it would take you to do this all yourself. I suggest that while you are waiting for it to download/install, you familiarize yourself with any other related information, including what the discussion is on the Discord for that modlist. I also highly recommend you have a premium Nexus account, as it speeds up the process. My download/installation took about 3 hours in total. There are a few other steps you have to manually do once it is completed (like moving the game folder files to the actual game folder, and setting up your ENB), but it is all explained on the readme.
  6. Once you have finished the final steps, you should be able to start the game up and actually start playing. You will be running the game through SKSE through Mod Organizer (found in the folder you created for installation), and I suggest creating a shortcut because you will quickly become addicted.
  7. Once you get the game loaded, you will need to set up the MCM. Usually a modlist will include suggested MCM settings. Some of these settings are to prevent bugs, some are to make sure that all the mods installed play well together, and some are pure user-preference. It might not be obvious which are which, so until you are comfortable, I recommend using the suggested settings. You can always tweak as you play.
  8. Adding to the modlist is NOT supported for any modlist, so if you do want to attempt to add ANYTHING, you will need to know what you are doing. Some of the other information below for the more manual build would help, but honestly, I generally suggest either doing a Wabbajack list or a manual list. Would you want a mammoth/mudcrab hybrid? Well, maybe that would be pretty cool…but it for sure would be dangerous.
  9. I can hear your thoughts: “Well I can add that one follower or armor or teeny tiny tweak mod and it won’t break anything.” If you do not do your due diligence (just as you would with a manual modlist), it will most likely break your game. Do you want to try anyway? It’s your game, your modlist, your computer and I cannot stop you. But remember, if you add ANYTHING, you will no longer receive support from the creators.
  10. A few notes:
    • If you get an error during download/installation, try to start it over; if it happens again, most likely it is because a mod has been updated/removed from the Nexus. Usually the modlist just needs to be updated. Check the Pinned section on the Discord channel for more info.
    • I put everything relating to Skyrim on my D drive (SSD): my steam has its own folder at the root of that directory, as does wabbajack itself, and the modlist of choice. My D Drive looks like this: D:\Steam, D:\Wabbajack, D:\Living Skyrim.
    • I like to look through the modlist manifest while waiting (or some lists have a spreadsheet that is a little easier to read), so I can see exactly what I am getting myself into.
    • If you choose a list that is graphically demanding, make sure that your computer can handle it. Usually a baseline is included on the readme/Discord. I used versus.com to compare my specs to their baseline to see if it was comparable.
    • Keep an eye on your download/installation; if it does error out, it is much less frustrating to find out right away. Trust me, it’s quite a mood-killer to wipe away your happy tears when Thanos/Voldemort/Sauron/Palpatine have been defeated for good, only to discover that while you were enjoying your movie and waiting for the Wabbajack to do its thing, it errored out in the first 5 minutes.
    • When posting to the Discord, make sure you have followed these steps first:
      • Look at the Pinned messages because your question might be answered there.
      • Make sure you have read through the entire readme, FAQ, any other resources provided, and I suggest looking at the bug report on the github as well, because often your question will be answered there.
      • Look through the more recent posts, and/or use the search function, because often your question can be answered there.
      • Make sure you follow the Discord Server rules! (These are specific per server, and there are some very grumpy people that don’t respond nicely if you break them, mostly because they are broken constantly.)
      • Remember! There is no Lydia on Discord; no one there has sworn to carry your burdens, so be polite and show your gratitude for all the hard work that has gone into these modlists.

Picture this: a 5-star chef comes to your house, with all the necessary ingredients, and prepares a 7 course meal for you and all you have to do is set the table. HOWEVER, you don’t get to pick the menu (and maybe you HATE onions and chocolate, but there are onions in every meal except dessert, which is a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and chocolate ice cream). That is Wabbajack. It’s a beautiful, delicious thing if you aren’t picky or are willing to try anything once.

Now picture this: you order from one of those meal delivery services, so you know exactly what meal you are getting, and most of the ingredients are provided, but you have to make it yourself. Some people love creating something and learning the techniques. That is a modlist guide.

Here are my favorites (and ones that are supported and regularly updated):


There are other guides out there, and I am not averse to adding more to this list, but these three are ones that I have personally tried and so I KNOW that they work. They also have a great system of support, via Discord among other things. Try one of these out if you are willing to put in some serious time to learning the tools, but with a pretty much guaranteed stable game at the end (IF you follow the guides EXACTLY). I have learned so much from all of these guides, and even though I don’t currently use any of them, they helped me learn how to make my OWN modlist. Which leads us to the next section…

This is where it gets really fun. Remember those “pictures” from the last section, where we had a 5-star chef or a meal delivery system? Well, there is a third option: a cookbook. That is what I am going to try and provide. It doesn’t have a specific menu, I don’t provide ingredients (but will make some suggestions), BUT you can make whatever you want. Keep in mind, this cookbook “author” has never gone to cooking school, and is still learning how to cook, so take all of this with a grain of salt (enough food metaphors for you?).

While Wabbajack is an incredibly easy and a wonderful tool, and modlist guide authors have done A LOT of work creating their curated guides, creating your own manual modlist has some perks. For one thing, you can tweak it to your style and really make this game exactly what you want it to be, and you will learn more about the process fairly organically. But another really great thing about creating your own modlist that I never imagined when I started? Every time the game starts up and the combination of mods that I added work together, especially if I had to do custom patching, I get a sense of accomplishment. And while I know that the mod authors are the true geniuses and creative minds, actually getting their mod into your game relies on work that YOU do. If you frequent r/skyrimmods, you will see many posts and comments about people that spend more time modding their game than playing, and sometimes it’s because they can’t get something to work, but often it’s because the modlist creation can become just as addicting.

So, what are the steps for this? The number of steps can be endless if you want to really delve deep (imagine a dozen Dwemer ruins, one after another), but the bare minimum I will limit to 20…ish… (not including the clean install mentioned in the first section). Please keep in mind that these are my suggestions (and what I did when starting) and that not everyone will want to do exactly this, or maybe will do it in a slightly different order. If you know of a specific reason to do something differently than listed here, please let me know. I can’t say I am an expert, but I can say that I am open-minded!

Note: If you are following a specific modlist (non-Wabbajacked) such as Lexy’s or Phoenix Flavour, these steps (and any variations that are specific/necessary for that particular modlist) are included on their list, so use this only if you are confused on their explanation. Other modlists might assume you already have done these steps. The important thing with any modlist is to read it thoroughly. To reiterate: these steps do not replace the ones included in a modlist but can be used to supplement or if you are not using a modlist.

  1. Set up a Nexus Mods account. There are other locations to find mods, but the majority will be found on this website. Take a look around at some helpful tools to use. Remember to endorse any mods you download and like!
  2. Download and install 7-Zip if you don’t have a program to open archived files already on your computer. This is one thing that I do actually have just in the default location (C:\Program Files).
    • Choose the download link that applies to you (most likely one of the top two options)
    • After it downloads, double click on it to install and select the destination folder.
    • After it installs (takes about 5 seconds), click “Close”.
  3. Pick a mod manager (Read this post). Below are some videos to watch so you can decide for yourself. I currently use Mod Organizer 2, but I will try and make sure all steps work for Vortex as well (it will undoubtedly be missing steps because I don’t currently have it installed and can’t verify). I will not add anything for NMM because it should no longer be used, and any other mod manager will also most likely not be added because I have no experience with them. (This is a comparison of a lot of mod managers for those that really want to know what they are getting into.)
  1. Go to the Mod Organizer 2 Files tab on NexusMods and download whichever option you prefer (for those that aren’t sure, I suggest the archive version).
  2. Create a folder called something like “MO2” in the location you want to install your Mod Organizer (do this at the root of the directory, so not Program Files or Steam. Mine is D:\MO2)
  3. Extract (using 7-zip which we installed in step 2 of the previous section) everything from the downloaded file into that newly created folder.
  4. After it has been installed, run MO2 and do the following (which are all pop-ups, so no need to search):
    • Create a desktop shortcut
    • Choose “Portable” Instance
    • Choose your game (Skyrim or Skyrim SE)
    • Watch the tutorial
    • Associate Mod Organizer with NXM links (this makes it easier to download mods directly to the mod manager)
  5. The next steps require some maneuvering around MO2 (there is often more than one way to do something in MO2, but this is one way to do each of the below)
    • Customize the theme if you would like
      • Go to “Settings” (in my MO2, the icon is a gear, but I think the default is a wrench/screwdriver)
      • On the “General” tab, in the upper right corner, there is a “Theme” dropdown, where you will select the one you prefer. Try out a few until you find the one you like; this can be changed at any time, but you will need to familiarize yourself with differences anytime you change.
    • Create a baseline profile
      • Go to “Configure Profiles” (in my MO2, the icon looks like the outline of a person, but I think the default is an ID card icon)
      • Select Create and name it something like “Baseline” or “Vanilla”
      • Leave “Default Game INI Settings” box unchecked
      • I like to keep “Use profile-specific Save Games” and “Use profile-specific Game INI Files” checked on all my profiles
      • REMEMBER: always check to make sure you are using the profile you are meaning to use before making ANY changes.

Download, install, and setup LOOT.

    • Click on the “LOOT.Installer.exe”
    • Double click on the downloaded file and choose where you want to install (I install all of my non-MO2 tools in a separate folder inside the MO2 folder – D:\MO2\tools\)
    • If you have Mod Organizer open, close it and run LOOT once it finishes installing
    • Click on the sort button (icon with three lines in the upper right-hand corner)
    • Close out of LOOT when it is done and open your mod manager.
    • Make sure the executable is recognized in your mod manager:
      • In the dropdown window above the right pane, you should find it there. If it is not there, you will need to add it via the <Edit…> in the dropdown.
  1. Download, install, and setup xEdit.
    • Download the xEdit that is applicable to your game: TES5Edit or SSEEdit, for Skyrim and Skyrim SE, respectively. (Although, to be completely honest, I don’t think the program is actually any different, so it doesn’t really matter)
    • Create a folder in the directory where you want to install the program (I install all of my non-MO2 tools in a separate folder inside the MO2 folder – D:\MO2\tools\)
    • Extract (using 7-zip) the contents of the downloaded file to the folder you just created.
    • Run the .exe (TES5Edit.exe or SSEEdit.exe) from within the folder and close it once it opens.
    • Make sure the executables are added to your mod manager:
      • In the dropdown window above the right pane, add both SSEEdit.exe and SSEEdit – Quick Auto Clean.exe (or TSE5Edit.exe and TSE5Edit – Quick Auto Clean.exe) via the <Edit…> in the dropdown.
      • For Quick Auto Clean, make sure to add “-DontCache” in the executable window under Arguments. (To prevent issues in the Apocrypha – credit to the Phoenix Flavour team)
  2. Clean and sort masters:
    • Due to how Mod Organizer initially adds the DLC masters, they are not in the correct order, so you will need to manually move the mods in the left-hand pane so that they are in the correct order: Dawnguard, HearthFires, Dragoborn. You will also have to make sure the plugins in the right-hand pane are also in the same order. You can manually do this second part or use LOOT. It’s good practice if you want to try out LOOT.
    • To use LOOT, you will open the executable through MO2 by selecting it in the dropdown in the top right section and choosing “Run”. (You can set up a shortcut for any executable that will appear above that section).
    • To sort your plugins (at any point in your modding process), select the three lines icon in the top right of the program. After it runs, you will potentially see messages, errors, and other things to note.
    • Close out of LOOT and run xEdit – Quick Auto Clean
    • Select Update.esm and click OK
    • Exit out and re-run the same process for the DLCs (you can only clean one at a time)
    • Dawnguard requires additional cleaning:
      1.  Run xEdit (not Quick Auto Clean) and select only Dawnguard.esm
      2. After it loads (along with its masters), click on Dawnguard in the Left Pane
      3. Expand the filetree, and locate “Cell”
      4. Expand that filetree, and locate “Block 5”
      5. Expand that  filetree, and locate “Sub-Block 3”
      6. Locate and click on “00016BCF”
      7. In the Right Pane, find “RiftenRatwayZone” (ECZN:0009FBB9)
      8. Right click on that record and select “Remove”
      9. Repeat similar steps for the below (expand the filetree in the left pane until you find the underlined; then remove in the right pane):
        • Block 2 > Sub-Block 1 > 0001FA4C CWGuardTempates (remove the entire record)
        • Block 8 > Sub-Block 1 (remove the entire sub-block)
      10. Exit out of xEdit
  3. Download, install, and enable SKSE
    • For LE, you can install via Steam or the same way as SE
    • For SE, download the 7-Zip archive and extract the following files to the Skyrim SE game folder:
      • skse64_1_5_97.dll
      • skse64_loader.exe
      • skse64_steam_loader.dll
    • In MO2, click on “Install a new mod from an archive” (usually a folder icon), and navigate to the downloaded archive.
    • I usually name this new mod as SKSE Scripts.
    • You will have to “fix” the files so that MO2 can recognize it as a mod: right click on “Data” and choose “Set Data Directory” and it should then say “Looks Good!”
    • Enable new mod by checking the box/circle next to it in the Left Pane
    • Congrats! You just installed your first mod – and simultaneously learned how to:
      1. Add files to the game folder
      2. Install a mod manually
      3. Fix the files of a download so that MO2 will recognize them as a mod
      4. How to enable a mod
  4. Download and Install the “Essential” Mods (You can either directly download these from NexusMods via the “Mod Manager Download” button on the Files tab, or you can download manually; If you download directly, go to the Downloads tab in MO2 and install by double-clicking, or if you download manually, install the same way you did SKSE.) After downloading/installing, no matter which route you took, make sure to enable by checking the box/circle next to the mod in the Left Pane.

OK, so you’ve downloaded some mods, installed and enabled them, and now you are asking: “when do I get to the part where I download the FUN stuff? (and no, I am not talking about Flower Girls…unless that is your thing, in which case, enjoy, you kooky kid!) I am talking about those mods you saw in that video, or mentioned on Reddit, or maybe ones that you don’t even know exist yet (cue X-Files theme). If you have no idea where to start, check out the “Hot Mods” section on the Nexus, or the Mod Categories section of this website. Here are the basic steps for any average mod download/install:

  1. Locate mod for download (NexusMods is my mod site of choice)
  2. Download manually or via direct download to MO2
  3. Install (if there is a FOMOD, choose preferences or patches if applicable)
  4. Enable in Left Pane and make sure that if there is a plugin, it is enabled in the Right Pane
  5. Look to see if the mod you added to the Left Pane has conflicts and rearrange the order so that whichever one you want to “win” does
  6. Run LOOT to sort load order (see if anything pops up, such as:
    • It needs to be cleaned via xEdit – Quick Auto Clean, so run that executable and select the mod to be cleaned and voila!
    • It has a conflict with a mod you already have installed, so see if that is true by reading the posts on both mods (LOOT is not perfect and mods are updated/changed regularly) and if it is true, you will have to decide which to keep
    • It is missing a master or a patch or some other requirement, so find and add that
    • It has deleted NavMeshes, so either see if the author released some kind of fix, find someone that has fixed that specific issue and can explain how to do it, or you can try and fix yourself (but the last is not suggested for beginners!)
    • It has complicated/extensive compatibility, i.e. it has suggested further reading, so…read the suggested further reading
    • And so on…
  7. Run xEdit and see if there are conflicts that you need to fix by creating a custom patch (or by simply reordering the plugin load order, in the Right Pane, once you leave xEdit).
  8. Run Skyrim via SKSE so that you can make sure that the game starts without issue and close once you get to the Main Menu
  9. Start all over again with your next mod!
  1. Method – There is a nifty way you can easily create a stable modded Skyrim, but it is a bit time consuming depending on how many mods you want to install. If you are the type that is more hold-my-mead and want to add a hundred mods willy-nilly without doing this process, you definitely can try it, but you are way less likely to have a modded game. And to be honest, there is a good chance you will end up spending even more time resolving conflicts than you would have if you had just started with “The Method”. So, what is The Method? You can read all about it in the Tome of xEdit. Essentially, you add one mod at a time and do these steps:
    • Install a mod
    • Filter to show conflicts and then do your process to “fix” (leave false positives, update load order, create a patch, etc)
    • Use mod groups so that false positives are hidden
    • Rinse and repeat
  2. Load Order – There are two “load orders” in modding, although one is arguably more important to having a stable game:
    • Mod Order (Left Pane) – the order of your installed mods – this determines which texture, ini file, etc ACTUALLY shows up in the game. (Exception is if you have loose BSA files, as those always load last)
    • Plugin Order (Right Pane) – the order of your plugins – this can cause crashes if there are missing masters or if they are out of order
  3. There can be only one – There is a phrase you will hear often in conflict resolution for modding: There can be only one! No wait…that’s not quite right…The rule of one! There we go! So, what this means is that whatever plugin you have last in your load order, everything in it (or not in it) is what you see in the game. So, if Brynjolf is supposed to have a letter on him or an ebony dagger because you have a quest mod that adds those, but that is loaded before a mod that gives him a mullet, guess what? Unless you have a patch that combines all of that together, he’s not going to have the letter/dagger (but he will have a sweet mullet, so there’s that). If you have a mod that makes Nazeem swim in the water in front of Dragonsreach but your other mod that makes him wear a polka dot onesie is loaded after? Guess who won’t be doing backstrokes but rather still bugging you about the Cloud District (although in quite comfy clothing). Keep this in mind while you are adding mods and creating patches.
  4. Custom Patch – I’ve mentioned creating a custom patch multiple times, but I haven’t really explained how to do it. This is not really a beginner topic, but I will give you a VERY brief description of how to create one. For me, my “gateway drug” into this crazy world was trying to get all my NPC overhauls to play nice, so I will use that as an example:
    • Open xEdit and make sure all your mods that you need to create a patch for are checked (not sure which those are yet? Add ’em all!)
    •  After all of those load, I right click in the Left Pane, and select “Apply Filter to Show Conflicts” (this can take awhile depending on how many mods you loaded)
    • Once that loads, you need to start figuring out what you want to be “forwarded” so that it ends up in your game, and you need to add that to a new mod you create.
    • Example:
      • Let’s say I have Men of Winter and AI Overhaul and they are showing a conflict for Runil
      • If I want the look from Men of Winter but the AI Package of AI Overhaul, I need to forward them both to a custom patch
      • I expand the filetree on one of those mods, until I find the record I am looking to work with (Men of Winter.esp > Non-Player Character (Actor) > Runil)
      • In the Right Pane, I right click on the heading of the column for the mod that will have the most records forwarded (for my case, that is Men of Winter), and select “Copy as Override Into”
      • A scary Warning! pops up and asks if you are absolutely sure
      • If you are comfortable with this (you will not be making any changes to a mod, and if you make a mistake, you can always exit out of xEdit without saving anything), it will ask “Which files do you want to add this record to?”
      • DO NOT SELECT ANOTHER MOD – choose one of the “<new file>” options (I usually choose the .esp that is flagged as an ESL) and select OK
      • Add a name (I use something specific to what I am doing, so it could be “NPC Custom Patch”, and I often add my initials so that I know it is one I made, not one from someone else)
      • Now you will see that newly created mod as another column in the Right Pane and you will see it is identical to the one you copied. It also is loaded at the bottom of your plugin order, so it will “win” any conflicts.
      • We still need to add the other records we want forwarded, so in this example, we are adding the SPOR (Spectator Override Package List), the ECOR (Combat Override Package List), the AI Data – Confidence, and the PKID (Package). To do this, you simply drag the item under AI Overhaul to the newly created mod (either in the blank spot or overriding the information that is there. It will ask if you want to add that mod as a master to your custom patch, so choose Yes.
      • If you are not comfortable with any of these steps, you can still play a modded game, but be aware that if you don’t use a patch (sometimes there isn’t one available), there may be (will most likely be) bugs in your game. There is WAY more than this to creating a patch, but this is quite literally how I first created a patch. Be warned, it really is a gateway drug. There are other tools needed for more in-depth custom patches, including the Creation Kit, but I am honestly just starting to learn about that side of things.
      • For more information, check out The Tome of xEdit.
  5. Auto Clean xEdit – if LOOT advises you to do a Quick Auto Clean, first make sure it actually needs to be cleaned by checking the mod description. If it does, follow these really easy steps:
    • Exit LOOT and start up xEdit – Quick Auto Clean
    • Find and select the mod you need to clean (you can only clean one at a time)
    • It doesn’t usually take long (maybe a few minutes) and when it shows “Quick Clean Mode finished”, you are done!
  6. Various Warnings
    • Missing masters – this might be shocking, but this means that you are missing…a master (or more than one). A master is a plugin that another plugin relies on. A lot of mods rely on the DLC, or the Unofficial Patch (USSEP or USLEEP), and patches rely on whatever mods they are patching. If you are missing a master, your game will crash.
    • Overwrite Files – (Mod Organizer Specific) there is a folder at the bottom of your Left Pane in which any output from an executable gets placed (unless you have changed where it goes for a particular executable). This can include xEdit caches, created patches, bashed patches, FISS(ES) output, CharGen saved files, etc. These won’t hurt anything, but if you want to move them to a mod, it is a good idea so you can keep them straight. For example, I usually create an empty mod for each patch I’ve created and move the plugin to it.
    • Form 43 – If you have a plugin that is in Form 43, you will need to convert it to Form 44. It is incredibly easy:
      • The plugin that needs to be converted has to be enable in Left and Right Panes
      • Run Creation Kit as an executable
      • Choose the mod you need to convert and “Set as Active File”
      • Click OK and let it do it’s thing
      • Once it has loaded, go to “File” and “Save”
      • Close the Creation Kit and you are done!
  • Left Side
    • The left pane is all of your installed mods. These are files that are stored in MO2 that are added to a Virtual File System when the game loads. These files can include plugins, textures, meshes, scripts, and more. It is important to note that not every mod includes all or even most of these things. Many graphic mods only include textures and meshes, while there are some mods that are just simple ini tweaks.
    • Note: In order for an installed mod to actually work, it has to be enabled. To enable a mod, check the box on the far left side of the mod.
    • The order of the mods in the left pane determines the order of packed (not loose) textures/meshes/etc (packed textures/meshes/etc will be in BSA format). Loose files, so those not in a BSA format, overwrite those that are packed.
    • In the Conflicts column, you will potentially see a lightning bolt with a green plus sign, a red minus sign, or both. This means that either that mod’s files are being overwritten, are doing some overwriting, or possibly both. To see exactly what is conflicting, you can double click on the icon. To just see which mods that mod has conflicts with, if you select that mod, you will see some highlights appear in the list. Green means that other mod is being overwritten by something in the currently selected mod; red means that other mod is overwriting something in the currently selected mod.
    • There can also be a white lightning bolt, which means that that mod is being completely overwritten by another. You can use the same method to determine its causes.
    • Note: not all conflicts need to have anything done, but is more informational. Just know that if something overwrites something else, it will not appear in the game. For example, if you installed this mod and this mod (both of which have textures for tomatoes), the texture of your tomatoes will be from whichever mod “wins” the conflict.
    • Below the Left Pane there is a filter expansion that is a great tool to use for a number of reasons I won’t get into here, but just know it exists. There is also a filter option so you can find the mod you want quickly.
    • Using the three dot button above the left pane, you can add separators or empty mods (the former helpful for staying organized and the latter for any custom patches you make)
    • The folder icon above the left pane allows you to quickly navigate to specific file locations.
    • You can do quite a bit by right clicking a mod, including going to information which allows you to directly see a lot. You can find the filetree, any conflicts, even Nexus information there.
    • You can see your number of active mods at the top of the left section. As far as I know there is no limit to that number, but there is a limit on the right side (so read below for more information on that), and there is a limit to what your computer can actually handle as far as graphics. That is a per computer determination and is beyond the scope of this website.
  • Right Side
    • At the very top of the right section, you will find any executables associated with your Mod Organizer.
    • The right-hand pane shows some tabs that you can alternate between to see some more information.
    • The first tab is Plugins, where you will see all plugins that are from mods that have been enabled in the left-hand pane. Remember, not every mod will have a plugin, and many mods will have many plugins.
    • The order of the plugins is the most important thing to creating a stable modlist. LOOT is a good start, but it is not perfect, so you will need to manually adjust your right-hand pane based on reading all applicable mod descriptions, general conflict resolution in xEdit (more on that later), and sometimes just trial and error.
    • If the name of the plugin is in bold, it is flagged as an ESM (no matter what the file name has at the end of it!)
    • If the name of the plugin is in italics, it is flagged as a light master (either an ESL or ESPFE)
    • ESP plugins flagged as ESPFE also have a yellow circle in the flag column if you would like to sort by that.
    • Other flags to note are a paper clip, which means that plugin has ini files associated with it, and a chest (?), which means that plugin has bsa files associated with it.
    • The Archives tab shows all bsa files that are currently detected, and the Data tab shows all data as it will appear in the Virtual File System when the game is loaded.
    • The Saves tab shows all saves associated with the current profile.
    • The Downloads tab shows all downloads and their status.
    • There is a filter function on the Plugin, Data, and Downloads tab so that you can easily find what you are looking for.
    • If you hover over the Active window on the right-hand side, it will give you more information about how many plugins (of each type) are currently active. For Skyrim LE, you can have no more than 255 plugins of any kind active. If you try to run the game (or any executable like LOOT) with more than that enabled, it will disable some of them automatically. For Skyrim SE, you can have no more than 254 ESP/ESM plugins active, but you can have 2048 ESL/ESPFE plugins. All ESL/ESPFE plugins load into that final 255th slot.
    • ESM and ESL plugins are forced to load before ESP and ESPFE plugins because they are Master files (note: some ESP and even ESPFE plugins CAN be masters to other plugins, so they SHOULD be loaded before those, but that does NOT happen automatically).
    • Remember: don’t assume that the file name is what the plugin is flagged as. Your Active Window shows you totals of each type of plugin as it is FLAGGED.
  • Other
    • Almost every column in any window/pane in Mod Organizer can be moved around based on your preferences.
    • In order to have a mod take effect in a game it needs to be enabled, and if it has a plugin, that also has to be enabled.
    • There are even more tools and functionalities than I listed here, so explore for yourself and familiarize yourself with this amazing tool.
  1. Go to the Files on NexusMods and download whichever option you prefer (for those that aren’t sure, I suggest the custom install one)
  2. Create a folder called something like “Vortex” in the root directory where your game is located (for me, that is D:\).
  3. Double click on the downloaded file and select the folder you just created as the Destination Folder
  4. After it has finished installing, run Vortex, and do the following:
    • Login to NexusMods and Authorize the connection
    • Check out the dashboard and customize if you would like
    • Choose “Select a Game to Manage” from the dashboard and on the Discovered tab, find Skyrim or Skyrim SE
  5. I will be adding to this section soon.
  • How do I use Modwatch?
    • Navigate to modwat.ch and click on “Download Here”
    • It will take you to NexusMods where you can download the uploader.
    • I created a folder called “Modwatch” where I keep all my modding tools.
    • Extract (via 7-Zip) and add to that new folder.
    • Navigate to that folder and run the executable Modwatch.exe.
    • Create a username and password
    • Add your game (and you can also add a tag and ENB)
    • Click on the folder icon and navigate to the profile you are using in your Mod Organizer directory (mine is D:\MO2\profiles\macpherb)
    • Save and Upload
    • In your internet browser, go back to modwat.ch and you can find your upload under the Latest Modlists section.
    • It’s super helpful for anyone trying to help you diagnose an issue because it will show your plugin load order, your modlist, AND your ini files.
  • How do I post to Reddit?
    • Do:
      • Have you read the available resources first? This includes the basic resources on the Skyrim Mods subreddit, the mod description page, and if you are following a guide, EVERYTHING provided by the author.
      • Have you done a basic Google search? You are most likely not the first person in the decade since Skyrim came out to have this issue. Why not see what other people have found and maybe used to fix your issue?
      • OK, if you still can’t figure it out, then you can create a Reddit post:
        • Add your Modwatch link (see above)
        • Add which mod manager you use (if you use NMM, I will be SHOCKED if you get any replies other than “switch to a different mod manager” and I will try not to say “I told you so”.)
        • Add the appropriate flair (LE, SE, etc)
        • Add as much information as you can, because if you don’t, the first, and maybe only responses will be asking for these things
      • Be polite and respectful; it is not anyone’s responsibility to help you. If you do get a response that is less-than-nice, ignore it and don’t feed the animosity. If you haven’t done the above steps, it is unlikely you will get much help.
    • Do Not:
      • Don’t post “I crash every time I try to start the game!!!”…with no other details
      • Don’t ignore the rules:
        • Be Respectful
        • No Piracy
        • Tag NSFW content
        • No Memes
        • No Screenshots or gameplay stories
        • Do Your Research
        • Necessary Information
      • Don’t post “This mod author sucks because….” – you don’t know how much effort goes into creating a mod, and even if you do, how does this help anyone? More often than not, bugs and issues are because a mod conflicts with another, not because of an issue with one particular mod. If you made a cake with chocolate chips and paprika, it’s not going to be disgusting because one or both of those ingredients is gross, but because they have conflicting flavor profiles.
      • Don’t expect others to do your work for you, BUT if you are at your wit’s end trying to solve a problem, the worst thing that can happen if you ask for help is someone can be a little patronizing or no one can respond at all. The best thing that can happen? Someone actually helps.
  • How many mods can I have?
    • There is technically no limit to how many mods you can have, BUT there is a limit to how many plugins you can have, and your computer can only handle so much of everything else (textures, meshes, etc). Also, keep in mind that only one of, well anything, can “win” over everything else. If you have five different textures for bees, only one will actually show up in the game, so…why have the other four?
    • For Skyrim LE, you can have no more than 255 plugins of any kind active. If you try to run the game (or any executable like LOOT) with more than that enabled, it will disable some of them automatically.
    • For Skyrim SE, you can have no more than 254 ESP/ESM plugins active, but you can have 2048 ESL/ESPFE plugins. All ESL/ESPFE plugins load into that final 255th
  • What are the differences between plugin types? (this is a VERY basic list of differences)
    • ESL – Elder Scrolls Light Master
      • Loads – with the masters at the top of the plugin load order
      • Slot – doesn’t take up a plugin “slot”
    • ESM – Elder Scrolls Master
      • Loads – at the top of the plugin load order after base game/DLC
      • Slot – takes up a plugin “slot”
    • ESP – Elder Scrolls Plugin
      • Loads – can be moved to pretty much anywhere under the ESMs/ESLs
      • Slot – takes up a plugin “slot”
    • ESPFE – Elder Scrolls Plugin Flagged as a Light Master
      • Loads – can be moved to pretty much anywhere under the ESMs/ESLs
      • Slot – doesn’t take up a plugin “slot”
  • How do I flag an ESP as an ESL (or more accurately, as an ESPFE)?
    • You can flag some ESPs as ESLs to save room for more plugins
    • Run Wrye Bash executable and right click on any green plugins, selecting “Flag as ESL”
    • General rule of thumb: do not ESL-ify any ESP that has dependencies (patches are usually safe since they are rarely masters), unless you are comfortable learning how to compact Form IDs.
    • Exit and you are done!
  • How do I port a mod from LE to SE or vice versa?
    • Follow this awesome guide by G’k, the creator of Cathedral Assets Optimizer

And for those of you Douglas Adams fans, here is a bonus mod suggestion:

M.H.A.R.P.H.I.N. (LE|SE) and MxR’s review on Skryim Mods Weekly (2:56).

So long and thanks for all the slaughterfish…

Please remember to endorse any mods you download and like, and if you appreciate all the hard work that goes into creating a mod, consider giving kudos to the author on Nexus as well (the Give Kudos button can be found on the user’s page).