Archive for October, 2013

The long gap between postings is due to two issues. First, there hasn’t been much happening on the game scene where I felt that I had anything unique or insightful to add. Sure, there have been a few DLCs for Bioshock: Infinite, Dishonored and the like, but they honestly haven’t been anything to rave (or rant) about. I’d really like to have something a bit more interesting to say than, “Meh”. I’ll confess to being very interested in the “Burial At Sea” DLC for Bioshock, but aside from a couple of trailers (which have been dissected and commented ad nauseam by this point) there hasn’t been much to comment on. The second reason is much more mundane: I’ve been playing.

However, the mods forum at Bethesda generates a fairly large number of “what mods should I use?” posts. Lacking anything better to do at the moment and being too damned lazy to post the same answer every time it’s asked, here’s my current mod list. Some are “must have” mods, a few are “nice to have, depending on your character build” and a few others are “meh”. I have Falskaar in my load order, but my current Level 68 character is probably a bit over-powered for it, so it will likely wait until the next character.

SKSE is required. Too many really good mods require it, so it’s just part of a standard Skyrim installation as far as I am concerned. The same can be said for SkyUI and the Unofficial Patches. I absolutely will not play without them.

  • 83Willow’s 101 BugsHD – a nice touch with swarms of butterflies, torchbugs, moths and the like, all usable as alchemical ingredients. Effects are a bit stronger than vanilla ingredients, which some might feel makes it somewhat overpowered for an alchemy-based build. If that’s you, don’t use it. Otherwise, it’s a nice addition if for nothing else than the pretties.
  • A Quality World Map – a “must have” mod, especially for those who do not fast-travel; just too useful to not include
  • Arrows and Bolts Tweaks – can be a bit over-powered, depending on your choices at installation. Probably best to leave ammo availability at or below vanilla levels.
  • Achieve That! – a “must have” for me because it’s just fun. You get minor perks or rewards for completing certain tasks (like eating 200 ingredients). None are particularly unbalancing or over-the-top and some are very difficult to achieve within a single playthrough.
  • Acquisitive Soul Gems – a “must have” for anyone playing a Conjuration-based or Enchanting-based character. It fixes a minor problem when the game uses an incorrectly-sized soul gem (like using a Greater soul gem on a Mudrab).
  • Alternate Start – Live Another Life – not recommended for people who are playing Skyrim for the first time; a “must have” for those of us who have made the trip to the headsman’s block so many times that we’d almost prefer root-canal work to sitting through it again.
  • aMidianBorn Book of Silence – retextured weapons, armors, unique items, etc. About a gigabyte of retex goodness if you get the whole package. A “must have” as far as I’m concerned, but it’s going to boil down to personal taste in the end. NMM doesn’t seem to play well with large downloads, so you should probably select “download manually” and import it rather than let NMM handle the download.
  • ApachiiSkyHair – “nice to have”, I think. Since my characters spend a lot of time wearing a helmet, it’s more for NPCs than anything else.
  • Balanced Magic – a rebalancing of the spell system and almost exclusively for mage characters. Do not use this with mods like SkyRe, for example, as you will undoubtedly run into conflicts.
  • Bandoliers and Pouches – “nice to have” – it adds craftable pouches and whatnot that increase your carry weight. Considering that you can accomplish the same thing with other mods without adding new items to the game, it’s nice, but not necessary.
  • Bellyache’s HD Dragon Replacer Pack – some nice retextures of dragons; either this mod or Deadly Dragons or Dragon Combat Overhaul is producing dead dragons that follow me everywhere (they drop out of the sky when I transition to exterior cells). I haven’t identified the culprit, but those are the only ones that are doing anything to dragons, so are the most likely suspects.
  • Better Archery Eagle Eye Perk – probably “must have” for archer builds, but “nice to have” for everyone else. It’s one of the very early Skyrim mods (pre-Construction Kit), so may or may not play nicely. I’ve never had issues with it, but don’t say you weren’t warned.
  • Better Sorting – Headbomb’s original mod with updates by Savage Hammer – most players could probably live without it, but I’ve been playing with it for so long that’s it’s kind of permanently embedded; it was a partial fix to Bethesda’s vanilla abomination of an inventory system and is likely irrelevant by now
  • Categorized Favorites Menu – another partial fix to Bethesda’s vanilla abomination of an inventory system. It has mostly been superseded by SkyUI’s favorites system, but I still like it (even if SkyUI gripes and complains about it)
  • CFM Config – Skyrim Redone – for my tastes, a better favorites overlay than CFM. Again, it has mostly been superseded by SkyUI’s newer functions, but I’m used to its quirkiness by now, so will stick with it even though it’s no longer being supported or updated. CCFM (Customized Categorized Favorites Menu) is similar, but I have not played with it. I’ll give it a go on my next character build, but it looks promising.
  • Cerwiden – SMART Healer – an interesting sidekick from the author of the Vilja companion mod in Oblivion – fully voiced with an interesting backstory and her own little quest line – definitely worth a look
  • Civil War Overhaul – extremely well done and a “must have” for anyone who wants to really delve more deeply into the Stormcloak rebellion. If the Civil War is something to endure/overcome on your way to other objectives, this is definitely not for you because you absolutely can lose
  • Complete Crafting Overhaul – Headbomb’s original mod. Like “Better Sorting” it’s kind of embedded in my load order. It requires two other mods (Smithing Perks Overhaul and Weapons and Armor Fixes) to work properly. It should not be used with another rebalancing mod, such as SkyRe. It sticks pretty close to vanilla and I’m using it mostly because I’m used to it, not because I think it’s particularly superior to anything other than vanilla Skyrim.
  • Convenient Horses – a “must have” mod if you’re planning on using horses at all. It’s a bit over-powered due to the ungodly amounts of stuff that you can have your horse carry, but it’s so wonderfully convenient, you won’t want to play without it
  • Deadly Dragons – another “must have”. Vanilla dragons are complete wusses (I’ve watched them get killed by Sabre Cats and Cave Bears). This makes them a force to be reckoned with. Set the difficulty high enough (it’s configurable) and even the Dragonborn will cower in fear of them. You’ll also want to install something like “Run For Your Lives” unless you want to see your favorite NPCs become snacks.
  • Dragon Combat Overhaul – a “must have” mod that does what it says: overhauls dragon combat. Dragons, even with Deadly Dragons, are fairly predictable. Knock their health down to 35% or less and they land, making them easy pickings. DCO makes them much less predictable. They’ll use spells, shouts, strafing runs, knock-downs, wing buffets or whatever as their ultimate goal is to inflict as much pain as possible upon you before they settle in for lunch.
  • Enhanced Lights and FX – a “must have” for some and “meh” for others. I like it better than other lighting mods as it really does darken interiors to the point where torches, light spells and Night-Eye are absolutely indispensible. If you’re not that crazy about stumbling around in the dark, pass it by.
  • Enhanced Skyrim Factions – The Companions Guild – a “must have” for anyone wanting to complete the Companions Guild quest line. It makes the faction much more interesting by restoring some cut content, installing skill and level requirements for advancement and the like. The vanilla quest line could be completed in one or two sessions; ESF stretches this out and makes it much more challenging and satisfying.
  • Follower Trap Safety – a cheat, but pretty much a “must have”. It basically gives your followers the “Light Step” perk so that they don’t blindly step on those pressure plates that you deftly avoided. Face it, Skyrim didn’t include a “don’t step there” command for your followers, so they tend to get smacked around due to AS (Artificial Stupidity).
  • Frostfall – either a “must have” mod or an unnecessary complication, depending upon my mood at the time. Gopher’s YouTube vids (“Beginners Guide to Modding Skyrim” and “Skyrim Mod Sanctuary”) do a much better job of explaining Frostfall than I ever could. This is not a mod for someone who is interested in speedy play. You really must think through what you’re wanting to do and the consequences of doing it or you’ll likely freeze to death.
  • Immersive Armors – like the Book of Silence stuff, it’s nice-looking armors. They aren’t over- or under-powered. SkyRe users will also need the compatibility patch(es) from the Files page. It plays well with the other mods, so it’s going to come town to personal aesthetic tastes, I think. It’s “must have” for me.
  • Immersive Weapons – like the Book of Silence stuff and JaySUS Swords, it’s nice-looking weapons. There are compatibility patches for SkyRe users. It’s “must have” for me.
  • Immersive HUD – iHUD – it’s “must have” for me, although I use it in conjunction with Less Intrusive HUD (I like its compass better). It makes HUD elements disappear from the screen when they aren’t needed.
  • JaySUS Swords – this is one of the earlier mods to add unique weapons and was pre-CK if memory serves. Aside from design, there won’t be many differences between this and other mods, such as aMidianBorn or Immersive Weapons. I keep it mainly as tradition and because there are a couple of really good-looking Steel weapons that I like to use. Couple these with Smithing Perks Overhaul and you’ve got some weapons that will work well, even into the mid-game.
  • Lanterns of Skyrim – Around Towns and Lanterns of Skyrim – Bridges – a couple of small mods that add lantern posts in areas outside of towns where town guards patrol and to some bridges. Very handy with lighting mods that seriously darken nights.
  • Lockpick Graduation by Lilyu – I count it as “must have”, although it’s a slight cheat. The mod changes the look of locks in the lockpicking minigame so that it’s a bit easier to pick up where your lockpick broke. It doesn’t change the mechanics of lockpicking at all; just adding some tick-marks to the locks that you’re picking. If you’re looking for a real cheat, try KenMod – Lockpick Pro. You can pretty much do the whole game with less than 1o lockpicks.
  • Move it Dammit! For NPC Companions and Followers – a “must have” – it makes your followers back up when you bump into them. I can’t count the times I got stuck in the bedroom at Breezehome because Lydia or some other follower was standing in the doorway and I couldn’t get through.
  • Night-Eye Overhaul – a “must have” as far as I’m concerned. It adds an Illusion-based Night-Eye spell (either timed or toggled – your choice) and makes some other tweaks/changes to the way that Night-Eye behaves. It has issues with some ENB lighting mods, but that’s due to the ENB, not this mod. I should probably go look for something else because it has a few other issues with other lighting mods, but I’m pretty used to its quirks by now.
  • Project Reality – Climates of Tamriel – a really good lighting mod with little performance hit. It plays well with other lighting mods, although I don’t know how well it plays with ENBs. I’ve generally avoided ENBs for performance reasons.
  • Pure Waters – a retexture of how water looks and behaves – a “must have” for me, although it’s strictly eye-candy.
  • SkyrimHD 2K Textures – one of the better general retexture mods out there. I use it in conjunction with the official HD texture packs from Bethesda. Even the Lite version textures are pretty awesome and had a much smaller performance hit with my GTX 550Ti than the official ones.
  • Static Mesh Improvement Mod (SMIM) – redoes a lot of the meshes in the game and is “must have” as far as I’m concerned.
  • Timing is Everything – almost “must have”, but more than “nice to have” – it lets you change the starting point for a lot of quests. For example, the default for Dawnguard is something like Level 10. If you don’t want it to start (with its attendant vampire attacks and favorite vendors and NPCs ending up dead), you can change it to whatever level you want. Works well with all of the official DLCs, too.
  • When Vampires Attack – “must have” – makes NPCs run for cover during a vampire attack rather than trying to take on that Master Vampire with the trusty old Iron Dagger that so many carry.

There are a few other minor mods that I haven’t listed because they’re very much personal preference kinds of things: Warmer Magic Lights, Spell Crafting, Ultra Realistic World Lighting, and things like that. I’m on the verge of starting up another character, so will likely go perusing the Nexus and change out some (or a lot) of these. But at least now I can just post a link to this on the forums rather than hunt down links.