Adventures in Skyrim Modding (Intro): DarkLadyLexy’s Legacy of the Dragonborn ModList

on December 18, 2019 in Uncategorized

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Having found my Skyrim SE game to have gone a bit stale in spite of diligently rebuilding my modlist between playthroughs, I stumbled across Legacy of the Dragonborn several months back and decided to take it out for a spin. I was extremely impressed by the mod’s production value and the meticulous approach the author (icecreamassassin) and the development team took with the concept and implementation. I used it about two-thirds of the way through a strictly main-quest-and-DLC playthrough and thought it was a fantastic mod which mainly suffered from the problem of being built to deal with a crap ton of mods that I had not included in my current modlist. So I scrapped that character, rebuilt my modlist to include most of those missing mods, and tacked on Inigo since it was one of the major follower mods that I had never used before.

Inigo and Angnin Darkmane cut quite the swath across Skyrim and Solstheim (but not Elsweyr, Falskaar and Wyrmstooth) when the LotD team dropped a new version on Monday. There is no upgrade path from v4.1.3 to v5 of LotD, so Angnin went off to digital Sovngarde (who knows where followers go when a Dovahkiin gets retired) and I decided to start over after giving the new version a quick playtest on an essentially vanilla setup. It went well enough that I decided to bring out the big guns and do a massive modlist rebuild.

I had run across DarkLadyLexy’s LotD modlist quite a while back, but I wasn’t particularly interested in investing the hours (and days) of time it would take to make all of the pieces play nicely together. The new version of LotD was a good enough excuse to take a break from playing to take a stab at it. What follows is my experience with setting up a new modlist. While I deviate from her modlist in some places because I think it pushes the game in directions that I don’t particularly want to go, I’m mostly sticking with hers for a couple of reasons. The primary one is that she’s using a lot of mods that I’ve never tried before and this is as good an excuse as any to give them a shot. For example, I’ve been a pretty diligent user of Obsidian Weathers or Climates of Tamriel in conjunction with Enhanced Lights and FX and she’s using Cathedral Weathers with Enhanced Lighting for ENB, so this made for a perfect excuse to try out different weather and lighting systems. ELE has been out for years and I just never got around to trying it out (even on original Skyrim) while Cathedral Weathers and Seasons is only a few months old, so why not?

A second reason for taking this approach was simple curiosity. I have never run what might be thought of as a heavily modded game. I have around 40 or 50 of what I think of as my “core mods,” things like the unofficial patch(es), Live Another Life, ELFX,, CoT, Lilyu’s Lockpicking mod (because you WILL be picking locks), some sort of weapon/armor retexture like Immersive Weapons/Armors (I tend to flipflop between that and things like aMidianborn’s stuff), sometimes with one of the follower overhauls like AFT or Convenient Horses, and that kind of thing, with the rest being something central to the character that I’m playing or a couple of the big quest mods like Elsweyr or Falskaar. The whole point was to be able to spend most of my time playing and as little time as possible getting the pieces to play nicely. All told, I’ve probably never had a load order bigger than about 150 or 175 mods. Lexy’s modlist looks to be well over 500 separate mods. A sizable chunk are mesh and texture stuff without an .esp to count against the cap, but the rest is still well over the 254-mod limit. The idea of doing some serious editing, bashing, smashing, and merging just to make something really complicated work was too tempting to pass up at this point.

If anyone wants to follow along, Lexy’s Legacy of the Dragonborn modding guide can be found at https://wiki.nexusmods.com/index.php/User:Darkladylexy/Lexys_LOTD_SE. It’s a massive read which will probably never be on the New York Times bestseller list, but it’s a very well done roadmap. I have a few minor gripes about organization (telling you to do stuff for MO2 before MO2 is even installed, for example), but it’s clear enough that even I can follow.

My Skyrim SE was already installed, although I had put off letting the game update back in November. I use what I guess is the standard approach to this in that I set the game to only update when launched, but never use Steam’s launcher EXCEPT (1) on a completely vanilla installation and (2) when I feel like messing with updating SKSE64 and the various mods and plugins that depend on it. Bethesda’s recent updates have only been to incorporate new Creation Club features rather than to patch any of the unpatched bugs in the game. Since I do not use CC content, I’ve never needed to update on short notice. Because I use SKSE64 (skse.silverlock.org), I launch through that and the Steam launcher never triggers unless I do it on purpose. It might not be what Bethesda had in mind, but they probably didn’t envision dragons that looked like Thomas the Tank Engine, either (I think the Randy Savage dragons are funnier).

All of that out of the way, the standard group of tools is what I’m starting from (DLCs were already cleaned and SKSE64 already installed):

Mod Organizer 2: https://www.nexusmods.com/skyrimspecialedition/mods/6194/

Ideally, MO2 should be installed on the same drive where Skyrim (or any of the other games it can handle) is installed, but I have my games and my mod tools on separate physical drives for reasons of space and performance. The additional load time at the start is a small price to pay for being able to have the game on a fast SSD. I use a portable rather than a dedicated installation as I’ll probably get back around to some of the Fallout games later and won’t have to mess with a duplicate installation.

The two editors (zEdit and SSEEdit) are sitting in the game’s directory, but the rest of the tools are on the other drive with MO2.

SSE Edit: https://www.nexusmods.com/skyrimspecialedition/mods/164

zEdit: https://github.com/z-edit/zedit/releases/tag/0.6.5

Wrye Bash: https://www.nexusmods.com/skyrimspecialedition/mods/6837

Mator Smash: https://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/90987

Load Order Optimization Tool (LOOT): https://github.com/loot/loot/releases/tag/0.15.1

BethINI: https://www.nexusmods.com/skyrimspecialedition/mods/4875

Cathedral Assets Optimizer (CAO): https://www.nexusmods.com/skyrimspecialedition/mods/23316

CAO is a new tool for me since I haven’t needed it in the past and I’m looking forward to seeing what it can do.

Lexy recommendd the most up-to-date version of the C++ Redistributable (https://support.microsoft.com/en-gb/help/2977003/the-latest-supported-visual-c-downloads). I’ve never had anything cough up hairballs because of having the wrong version of this, but figure that it can’t hurt and it seems likely that something somewhere down the line might actually require it, so why not.

I also reinstalled a couple of LOD tools:

Sheson’s xLODGEN: https://mega.nz/#!QVZlzShQ!fkUTPUIp2O5cg1s4BlfwFMwI1uG6M3Hg9tCJNbw_hUE

(Do not forget to send your firstborn to Sheson after installation)

DynDOLOD: https://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/59721

I decided to play around with ENB for this setup. ENB is a new thing for me in spite of it having been around for freakin’ ever, but this is an optional thing and can be dispensed with if you prefer another graphic solution.

ENB Series by Boris Vorontsov: http://enbdev.com/mod_tesskyrimse_v0396.htm (I had v0.395 hanging around from an earlier install of Fallout 4, so didn’t bother with the newest version, but should note that Vorontsov removes old links with each new update and the download link at the bottom of his page will disappear in the future).

Since I had used most of the tools in the past and still had a few installed, getting all of them set up didn’t take very long. If the reader does not have them or is not used to using them, this initial setup will take a couple or three hours. Lexy’s instructions are very precise (as in click this, type that, and so forth), so “trust the guide” is probably the best rule to follow if you’re new to modding.

Coming up: the modlist (this is going to hurt)

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