So! I'm back, with a buttload of other recommendations from my own mod setup for my current playthrough. Once again, this is gonna be one hell of a post.
The first thing I'll point you towards is Audio Overhaul for Skyrim 2
. This mod is easily one of my favourites, because it addresses an issue you don't really notice in vanilla Skyrim until it's been fixed. Sound doesn't really behave properly. Sound doesn't really behave in any way, really, good or bad. It's just sort of... there. But with AOS2, sound effects actually reverberate, echo, change in pitch and volume depending on distance, etc. Even the videos available don't do this one justice. Definitely a must-have, IMO. Then there's the sound effects themselves. The vanilla ones are fine, sure, but that's all they are. Enter the Immersive Sounds
suite. It changes the actual sound effects themselves, all of which are still subject to the changes made by AOS2 (provided you install the AOS2 patch included in the Immersive Sounds automated installer). These two mods combined completely change the soundscape of Skyrim, and make it a much more diverse and immersive environment. Two of my favourites.
Now, another thing that never bothered me before I found a mod to fix it was the smaller towns and villages. Places like Rorikstead, Ivarstead, Dark Water Crossing, etc. I always knew where they were and what was there, but never really found anything interesting or notable about them. Then I found Expanded Towns and Cities
. It makes both aesthetic and functional additions to several of the smaller settlements across Skyrim, including merchants and other assorted NPCs. The major walled cities of Skyrim are kind of barren as well. There are literally dozens of mods that enhance each of them, especially Whiterun. I myself use Atmospheric Whiterun
, Dawn of Riften
, Dawn of Windhelm
, and Towns and Villages Enhanced - Solitude.
I've listed them in order of performance hit, from smallest to greatest. There are plenty of others, though, if these aren't to your taste. Inconsequential NPCs
adds several random NPCs mostly to the major cities, all of whom are - as the title suggests - inconsequential. They serve absolutely no purpose beyond filling the vast stretches of empty space across Skyrim. Add to that Immersive Patrols
to add faction aware NPCs wandering the roads of Skyrim. So you'll run into patrol groups for the Imperials, Stormcloaks, Dawnguard, and several others. These three combined make Skyrim feel much less empty.
All these new NPCs are pretty stupid, though. In fact, most of the NPCs in Skyrim are pretty stupid, bordering on brain damaged. The lead on the Unofficial Patches team created When Vampires Attack
and Run For Your Lives
- NPCs will now run to safety when vampires or dragons attack, instead of barreling forward unarmored and wielding an iron dagger. Town guards, mercenaries, and other warrior type characters will still stand and fight, but shopkeepers, nobles, etc. will run to their homes or the nearest public indoor space to escape the fight. A great immersive touch that also makes the field of battle a lot less crowded. So you're less likely to have the town turn on you because you accidentally shanked Nazeem while fighting a Master Vampire. Not that everyone in Whiterun hasn't thought of shanking Nazeem at least once.
The vanilla game's equipment is cool, but after so many playthroughs it can get a little lackluster. The same ten sets of armour, the same dozen or so swords... it gets a little dull. I use Immersive Armors
, which has a nice little configuration menu (assuming you're using SkyUI). With it you can set individually whether a specific set is available for crafting, in leveled lists, both, or neither. Combined with Immersive Weapons
from the same author, and you've got dozens of new weapons, including several whole new types
of weapon, to choose from. Add to that the Jaysus Swords
plugin from that set there, which updates and fixes the now outdated original mod. Then there's Winter is Coming
. which adds gorgeous bear- and wolf-skin cloaks, along with accompanying light, heavy, and cloth helmets. Then there's Functional Bags
, that adds a set of portable storage units that reduce the weight of items places inside them and can be worn to reduce weight further. It relies on the mesh and texture files from Bandolier - Bags and Pouches
, which needs to be installed but not activated. I'd suggest doing just that, as Bandoliers tends to clutter the crafting menu. Functional Bags feels more immersive anyway, IMO.
There are a number of gameplay overhauls out there that make sweeping changes to how the game functions. Skyrim Redone, SPERG, and *gag*Requiem are the three most common. The reason I'm not linking to them, however, is because I personally don't care for any of them in their entirety - they all have a few things I like (with the exception of Requiem), and a few I don't (is the entirety of Requiem). Instead, I prefer to use a number of smaller mods to overhaul specific aspects of the game, and as a whole create the kind of experience I want. This part is probably the most subjective. You may not like the setup I use. I strive to make my Skyrim more immersive, but not necessarily realistic - I like mods that make combat harder and skill more important, but don't care for mods that add raw "survival" elements like cold weather or eating and drinking requirements.
The bare bones of my setup is The ThirdRace Skill Overhaul
, which overhauls and rebalances the skill trees while maintaining the tone and idea of the vanilla game. But it's entirely modular, so you can pick and choose which trees to use. Pick them all except Smithing, Sneak, Lockpicking, Pickpocketing, and Enchanting. Next combine Complete Crafting Overhaul Remade
, Weapons and Armor Fixes Remade
, Smithing Perks Overhaul
(I use the Improved Vanilla Perk Tree), and Clothing and Clutter Fixes
. Then, from the same author, Stealth Skills Rebalanced (Complete Full)
. Last install Enchanting Awakened
, which overhauls not only the enchanting skill tree but the nature of the skill itself, offering three classes of specialisation each with its own strengths and new abilities. There's far more to it than I can describe here, so head over and check out the description for more detailed info on what it does.
I've been using the Community Uncapper
in every playthrough for I don't know how long now. The configuration file gives you control over pretty much any aspect of leveling up you could imagine, not the least of which the ability to level skills beyond 100. I've got it set up in a very specific manner that to explain properly would make this post twice as long as it already is. If you're interested I can help you through the rather intimidating and convoluted .ini file.
Then there's Deadly Combat
, which completely changes the way you look at combat and battle. It makes every fight more dynamic and interesting by increasing the importance of armour, blocking and stamina - even the lowliest of bandits can take down a level 40 player if you're not careful.
There are several mods that add new creature and enemy encounters. The one I have the most experience with is Skyrim Immersive Creatures
. It takes some rather significant creative liberties as far as "lore friendliness" is concerned, but that's easily forgiven because of the MCM menu that lets you pick and choose which of the new creature variants you can encounter. If some of them don't appeal to you for whatever reason, you can simply turn them off. Another similar mod is Monster Mod
, which also adds new creature variants and encounter points but with different creative choices, as well as equipping several of them with new weapons. I have little experience with it myself, something I intend to change in the near future. Then there's SkyTEST
, which alters the behaviours and spawn points of the vanilla game's creatures entirely without scripts, so its performance impact is practically non-existent. It tends to be somewhat sensitive in larger load orders and behaves better when installed manually, but if you're a massive immersion junky while also being a stickler for lore friendliness then it's the one you'll want to go with. There are lots of other mods that add new creatures and spawnpoints to the game, but those are the three that come first to mind for me personally.
Dragons, man. Dragons in Skyrim were a huge disappointment. There are two mods that combine to resolve this. Dragon Combat Overhaul
alters the way dragons behave in combat - their movement and flight patterns are less predictable, they gain new abilities to escape defeat, and they're generally smarter. Especially in groups - which can actually happen now, btw, when you also use Deadly Dragons
. DD also adds new abilities, as well as allowing you customise dragons' attributes and make them able to both take and dish out more damage.
Followers in Skyrim are really dull. Literally all of them. Even the vast majority of modded followers are really just new faces on the same boring old followers. There are a few exceptions. Vilja is a very popular one, but not one I'm fond of myself. Her voice work is mostly ported over from the Oblivion version of the mod, and is thus extremely dated. And it sounds it. My personal favourite is Arissa
. She's easily the best follower for Skyrim there is. She's fully voiced by a fantastic voice actress with studio level equipment; she's got a unique equipment management system that prevents her from using one item when you want her to use another; and a unique "regard" system that functions similarly to the influence system in TSL. She reacts well to certain things you do, and poorly to others; and when her opinion of you rises she's more willing to help you carry items, talk about her past, etc. And if her opinion of you lowers she's less willing to help you out and may even up and leave you. She's also quest and location aware, and has dialogue specific to certain areas and specific points in the main quest. Arissa transcends the follower system, in my mind, and is a true companion character rather than just a pack mule. Can't express enough how much I appreciate this mod.
The last thing I feel the need to cover are story and quest mods. Much like followers, there aren't a whole lot of truly stand out quest and story mods. And that's mostly because creating quest and story mods is crazy
time consuming and requires a great deal of understanding of pretty much every aspect of the Creation Kit. There are a few, though, that really stand out as fantastic mods. The one I personally like the most is the Civil War Overhaul
. CWO expands the civil war into an actual dynamic story with multiple courses and potential endings - and the best bit is that it does the majority of it by restoring original vanilla content that was abandoned part way through development, presumably due to time constraints.
The other quest mod I'll mention is Helgen Reborn
. It adds a new anti-Thalmor faction to the game that weaves a decent story into their attempt to rebuild the village of Helgen following the dragon attack. Some of the voice acting is kind of "meh" - one minor character has a really fuzzy voice, and another is voiced in a rather comical Arnold type voice. But I'm probably the most anal person on the Nexus when it comes to voice acting in mods, and I was able to play through it just fine. The rest of the mod is well worth the effort.
... I think
that's about it. XD I suggest taking a look at the Nexus' Top Files
list and see if anything else jumps out at you too. I have a whole host of other mods installed if you want any other more random suggestions. Let me know and I [i]can[/i keep going. Probably forever, to be honest. But that's all for tonight.