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SkyRem Guide Pages

Home Page <-----
Section I
Section II
Section III
Section IV
Final Steps

SkyRem Guide Support

Discord: Discord Channel for all things SkyRem (Guide and Mods).
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PayPal: Support with a one-time donation via PayPal.
Trello: See guide development progress on Trello.

Home Page


What is SkyRem? Skyrim Roleplay Enhancement Modding is an attempt to give back to the community, or at least contribute in some way, both through mods and this guide. The SkyRem concept: Enhance the Skyrim experience by incorporating elements of strategic roleplay that works seamlessly with the base (vanilla) game. While this began with the desire to tweak character creation, it has since grown into two (currently) series of mods and this guide.

There are many guides available already, with different focuses, different objectives, and varying degrees of difficulty (both difficulty of game and difficulty of guide). This guide is a result of countless hours playing with mods, adding, removing, tweaking, combing through category by category on the Nexus, reading and researching. Every mod considered for the guide is done so based on the mods ability to enhance at least one of the following areas without being a detriment to any of the other areas lore: Stability, Content, Mechanics, and Aesthetics.

While not intended to be a difficulty or beautification guide by design, it can be argued that difficulty is incorporated simply by the nature of the roleplay focus and modifications. The intent of the guide goes far beyond just making Skyrim more difficult. As for beautification - there are plenty of mods specifically for this included in the guide, but is not the primary focus. These have incorporated in a way that will make it easy to add / remove / substitute based on preference (or system capabilities).

SkyRem may be best suited to those with some degree of modding experience (beginners beware). Having said that, as SkyRem continues to develop based on suggestions / questions / requests, more detailed info will be included. While not intended to be a hold-your-hand guide, the goal is to allow any level of modder to be able to complete the guide successfully.

A few words of caution:

- Read this Home Page thoroughly to decide if this is the setup for you before beginning - save yourself some time by knowing what you are getting into.
- Complete the guide as-is first and ensure everything is working before making personal changes (with the exception of visual mods).
- Most issues are due to skipping a step, missing a tag, or not following notes precisely. The guide contains a lot of information and it is easy to miss something.
- Do not rush. Doing so will likely only result in a waste of time and sanity.

While updates will be made as frequently as necessary to fix issues and/or provide needed clarification, there will be times of guide inactivity. The intent is to create a modded Skyrim, and play. It is easy to get caught in a perpetual cycle of updating > testing > repeat. The same goes for maintaining a guide. Do not forget to enjoy the game!


DrPharmDawg's Rig


The guide is arranged as follows: Sections (Home Page, I, II, III, Final Steps) >> Steps (1, 2, 3) >> Parts (A, B, C)

  • Home Page: Introduction, guide info, and some basic "how to's" and troubleshooting.
  • Section I: Primarily focuses on Stability - Fresh install, tools and INIs, cleaning masters, SKSE plugins, and getting your base game ready. Includes mods for Interface and Fixes.
  • Section II: Mechanics and Content - Environment, Creatures, and Quest mods.
  • Section III: More Mechanics and Content - Characters, Locations, Equipment, Immersion, and Audio mods.
  • Section IV: Aesthetics - Visual mods not covered in previous Sections. Completely optional mods that can be added/removed based on preference (and your rig's abilities).
  • Final Steps: Patching and in-game setup, such as recommended MCM settings, and tips on how to start your SkyRem adventure.
  • Changelog: Check here for changes made during each version update.

This guide provides:

  • A stable and performance friendly setup.
  • Installation directions and instructions for using various modding tools and techniques.
  • Patches to make mods included work together (via Nexus).
  • Support via Discord and regular updates.

This guide does not include:

  • Dead Mods: Mods that need updating or mods with excessive (or unanswered) bug reports/comments without simple solutions.
  • CBBE: What little I do in this regard is UNP.
  • 4k+ Textures: Whenever possible, I use 1k and 2k at the most. There are a few exceptions if <4k is unavailable.
  • Player Homes: I feel the vanilla options and those provided by Quest mods are sufficient.

Guide Organization[edit]

As stated above, the guide is arranged as follows: Section >> Step >> Part These three levels are used to organize the guide into increasingly smaller and more specific groups of information and mods. In addition to this three tier approach, mods are further distinguished (by outline color) as follows:

Red: Required as they are key to the concept of SkyRem, or needed by the provided patches as a Master.
Blue: Recommended because they build on the concept of SkyRem, but not required for the aforementioned reasons.
Green: Optional as they only contribute to the appearance or minor changes of your game (and not baked into saves). Add/remove as you wish, or per your rig's abilities.
Yellow: Mods currently in the guide primarily for testing purposes (not necessarily accepted for the guide yet). Use at your own risk.

Mod Legend[edit]

Each mod "card" utilizes this template:

MOD NAME[edit]

  • Download: LINK
  • Author: MOD AUTHOR
  • MOD TAGS (See below)
FOMOD Instructions
Mod Name

DotMO.png Option 1

DotMO.png Option 2


Mod Tags[edit]

Read through each mod's card prior to starting installation of that mod to prevent having to back track. Tags are used to highlight additional steps or important information about proper installation of mods. More info on these can be found in the How-To section.

  • NEW
     : Newly added mod since previous guide version.
     : Mod with an update since previous guide version. This may indicate a new mod version, update to a FOMOD, files to install, etc.
  • TOOL
     : Utility rather than an actual mod. Generally accompanied by instructions in the notes for installation and use.
     : Mod includes additional plugins to be installed separately (via FOMOD or Files), or the mod is this separate installation.
  • MCM
     : Recommended MCM settings are available in Final Steps.
  • CORE
     : Required for the use of the SkyRem Patch, which handles consistency and conflict resolution not included elsewhere.
     : Contains settings included in the SkyRem Custom Settings file.
  • BSA
     : During installation, select [YES] to extracting the BSA.
     : Run the plugin(s) through xEdit's QuickAutoClean function.
  • PORT
     : Use Creation Kit to convert the form number from LE (Form 43) to SSE (Form 44).
  • ESL
     : Use xEdit to ESL-flag the Plugin.
     : Same as ESL above, but the plugin's forms need to be compacted prior to ESL-flagging it.
  • CAO
     : Run the mod through Cathedral Asset Optimizer (CAO) to convert the assets (meshes) for use with SSE.

Installing Mods[edit]

A few notes on installing mods:

  • Unless otherwise noted, download mods via the [MOD MANAGER DOWNLOAD] button on the Nexus.
  • Unless otherwise noted, select [Merge] when prompted if installing multiple files for a single mod.
  • When updating a mod, select [Replace]. If updating multiple files from a single mod, use [Replace] for the first file, and [Merge] for subsequent files of the same mod.
  • Once installed, activate each mod, one at a time, as you go, in the order of the guide. This is critical for the desired result, as well as for the patches to work correctly.
  • Do not activate multiple mods at one time (select multiple mods, right-click, activate). While possible, this can lead to issues with correct mod/plugin orders even with LOOT.

Guide Versions[edit]

The format for the Guide version is X.Y.Z:

  • Z indicates minor changes such as: installation note fixes, mod moved to different section or reordered, non-intrusive and minor mod version updates.
  • Y indicates moderate changes such as: updates requiring merge/patch rebuilding, mods added or removed, major mod version updates.
  • X indicates major changes such as: larger overhauls of the guide, mod changes that require a new game.


The worst outcome: Complete a guide and load up your game only to find a game-breaking issue. Testing is strongly recommended [required].

  • There are Step Checks throughout the guide. Be sure to review all the information in these before moving to the next step.
  • In the event something goes wrong (CTDs, ILRs), work backwards starting in the Step you just completed by deactivating a few mods at a time and retesting.
  • If you find a mod having issues, double check the mod's card for proper installation. Sometimes, a simple reinstall is all that is needed.
  • Expect some "issues" along the way with the Step checks. Sometimes these issues are not addressed until a later Step.

Guide Stats[edit]

Upon completing a full guide install as of v6.3.0:

* Total Mods (Left Pane of MO2): 758
* Total Plugins (Right Pane of MO2): 735
* Total ESMs: 22
* Total ESPs: 197
* Total ESMs + ESPs: 219
* Total ESLs: 516
* Available Plugin Slots: 35
* Approximate HD Space: 115GB


This section aims to explain some of the major changes made by this guide. Before using the guide, read through to make sure this is how you want your Skyrim to behave. This guide is not for everybody - it is geared toward those looking for a more realistic and immersive roleplay experience. This is not intended for quick play-throughs. After completing the guide, refer to this for unexpected behaviors to check whether they are intended by the guide.


SkyRem is not designed to be a "difficulty" setup. However, by the nature of many of the mods used it offers a more challenging experience. Combat needs more strategy. Adventuring requires more planning. NPCs act and react more realistically. Character development is more dynamic. While you can play SkyRem on any difficulty, keep in mind that the vanilla difficulty settings impact (primarily) how much damage you deal and receive, but may have little to no impact on other functions altered by the mods included.

You will not be able to rush up to a group of 10 bandits and hack and slash your way through. Setting out on a quest ill prepared without food, water, tent, tools, etc. can lead you to a quick demise or inability to perform some tasks. Making choices regarding Attributes, Abilities, and Perks without giving thought to how you want to build your character may result in a character fated for failure.


- Experience to Level is minimally impacted by increasing the 18 Skills. Level experience is gained by adventuring, completing quests, and defeating opponents.
- Skill leveling is capped by your character Level. You cannot reach Skill 100 at low levels. If you see a skill is no longer advancing, level up again.
- Leveling will not provide a set 10 points to H/M/S. You may receive a bonus to stats based on your attributes, but primarily stats increase based on how you play.
- The previous applies to carry weight as well. Your CW increase at level up is 100% dependent on your attributes.
- As with Vanilla, you will gain 1 perk each level, but at every 15 levels you will gain an additional perk (2 perks at levels 15, 30, 45, etc)


- Deleveled: Any non-unique item can be found anywhere at anytime - Loot is based on Rarity and Abundance.
- You have a higher chance of receiving better stuff based on the difficulty of the challenge, such as a boss vs a non-boss enemy.
- The ability to use a Weapon properly is governed by its Skill (One Handed, Two Handed, Archery). Finding a high level weapon early on does not mean you can use it.
- The ability to use Armor properly is governed by its Skill (Block, Heavy Armor, Light Armor). Same as with weapons.
- If unskilled, Weapons will deal less damage and can be dropped or cause you to stagger on impact. Armor may not provide as much protection.


- You must spend time in a faction to advance within their ranks.
- You will no longer become Harbinger/Archmage/Guild Master after 3 days. You must work for it (do more side quests for instance).
- You must be skilled appropriately to advance within factions (Stealth Skills for the Thieves Guild, Combat Skills for the Companions).


- Combat is more realistic in how damage is dealt and how NPCs behave.
- Different enemies have natural resistances to different attacks, both physical and magical. If something is not working, try something else.
- Animals behave more realistically. Many can simply be avoided and will not become aggressive unless provoked.
- Bosses are tougher. Sometimes much tougher.
- Encounter Zones - Do not expect being 10 levels higher than the minimum will result in a quick run through, even if it was last time...


- Crafting (and other activities) require the proper tools. This includes chopping wood, mining ore, forging, tempering, even cooking.
- If you are unable to perform a task due to lack of a tool, you can either find one or buy one from an appropriate NPC.
- You cannot spam potions, so use them wisely. You need time to recover from potion use before another potion will be effective.

Character Development[edit]

- Characters can develop and be enhanced in many ways and in many combinations.
- Things to consider for developing your character: Standing Stones, Diety, Attributes, Shouts, Perks, Class, Race (including Werewolf, Vampire, or Lich).
- Once you accept your Attributes, they are set. Attributes will grow and improve based on the skills you develop, but this takes time.
- Use the Reflect power to choose your background and provide an immediate boost to a single skill.
- If a devout follower, use the Pray power daily to increase favor with your diety.
- You are limited - you cannot learn every class and combination. Choose wisely.


- You must sleep, eat, and drink to be fully effective, and avoid dying from exhaustion, hunger, or thirst.
- Consider your quest before starting - will you need a tent, food, water, tools?
- Craft a tent, buy some tools, stock up on water at the well, and cook some food before setting out.

Your Adventure Begins[edit]

- Start a new game in the LAL (Alternate Start - Live Another Life) Cell, and WAIT. It takes a few minutes for all mods to initialize.
- Once the messages are done, Save. Before you begin setting up MCMs (Final Steps), choose a start and sleep to leave the cell and make sure everything loads correctly.
- Everything good? Load the save and set up the MCMs (this takes a little while) and save again. This can serve as your starting point going forward.
- Develop your character before running out to tackle the Main Quest. You will find jumping right in to be somewhat difficult.
- Do some small jobs to gain septims for supplies (food, water, tent, tools) and find some trainers and/or practice on some dummies to hone some basic skills.
- Explore and mingle with the locals, helping out where you can. Completing some simple quests and discovering locations will help raise your level early on.

HOW TO[edit]

Clean Mod[edit]


Mods tagged with Clean need to be ran through xEdit's Auto Quick Clean function.

  - In MO2, launch SSEEdit QuickAutoClean in the executables drop-down box.
  - In the mod list that opens, check the mod that you want to clean and click [OK].
  - SSEEdit will run for a few moments. Once you see the the completed message, [Close] SSEEdit.
  - In the final pop-up, make sure the mod you cleaned is selected so it will save.

Sort Load Order[edit]

It is recommended to sort your load order and test your setup following each step. LOOT will do the majority of your sorting automatically, and any manual adjustments needed will be noted in the final steps prior to the final sorting. Note that LOOT will identify plugins that need to be cleaned and keep a tally by the Dirty Plugins header near the top. If this number is anything other than 0, scroll through your mods in the right pane and find which mod(s) require(s) cleaning and take the necessary steps. Also research any Errors noted. The Warnings can be ignored as they pertain to compatibility which is largely addressed later in the guide.

To sort your Load Order:

  - In MO2, launch LOOT in the executables drop-down box.
  - In the window that opens, click the [Sort Plugins] button in the upper right (three lines).
  - Click [Apply] in the tool bar where the Sort Plugins button was. The Apply only appears if LOOT determines changes need to be made.
  - Exit LOOT.

Extract BSA[edit]


Mods tagged with BSA contain at least one BSA (Bethesda Archive files) that needs to be unpacked. A BSA contains various assets that need to be extracted from the archive in order to work as intended by the guide. There are several options to extract a BSA file.

Allow MO2 to extract BSAs during install:
  - Open the Configure settings and workarounds (wrench and driver icon) and go to the [Plugins] tab.
  - In the upper-left window, click [BSA Extractor].
  - In the window directly to the right, update [enabled] to [true].
With this set to true, any mod you install that contains a BSA will prompt you whether to extract it or not. If a mod is tagged with BSA, select [Yes]. If not, select [No]. The downside to this method is you have to remember to turn this on and off, or you have to answer the prompt every time a mod is installed containing a BSA, the majority of which you do not need to extract. I prefer to keep it enabled and sacrifice the time of one additional click.
Extract BSA within MO2:
  - Click the [Archives] tab in the right pane.
  - Locate the BSA you want to extract. Right-click it and select [Extract].
  - Navigate to the location you want to extract the BSA (extract to the mods folder).
  - Delete the BSA.
This option is good as you do not have to remember to turn a setting on/off or constantly be asked, but the navigating to the mods folder can be even slower, and you must delete/hide the BSA afterwards.
Utilize external BSA extractor. This will not be covered as they are obsolete with the above two options, but they are out there. Their respective pages provide all the information you need to install and utilize the tool.

Optimize Meshes[edit]


One of the most common causes of CTDs - Meshes. This step needs to be done with any mod flagged CAO. Generally this is due to NIF files (mesh files) that need to be optimized to be used with SSE (particularly, but not exclusively, LE mods containing NIFs).

Optimize NIF Files:
  - Navigate to your Tools/Asset Optimizer folder.
  - Run Cathedral_Assets_Optimizer.EXE.
  - Click [Open Directory], navigate to the mods folder, and click [Select Folder].
  - Unless otherwise explicitly stated, you only want the [Necessary optimization] option checked under both [Meshes] and [Textures].
  - Click [Run].
  - When complete, simply close the window.

Port Mod [from LE][edit]


Mods that are flagged Port need to have the plugin converted for SE.

Fix the Form Number (from 43 to 44):
  - In MO2, launch Creation Kit in the executables drop-down box.
  - Once open, select [File] and [Data] in the tool bar.
  - In the window that comes up, double click the mod you are converting, and click [Set as Active] and [OK].
  - This may take a few moments to load. Ignore any errors that show in the additional window.
  - After the mod is loaded, re-save the file by going to ([File] and [Save].
  - Make sure you see Saving... Done! in the bottom bar. If you do not, the plugin did not save in Form 44.
  - Exit CK.

If the mod contains a BSA file, it will likely need to be extracted (see BSA above) and the assets (meshes, textures) optimized (see CAO above).
Therefore, a Port tag may require: BSA any archives present >> CAO if meshes are included, and finally Port the plugin.

Merge Mods[edit]

Some plugins can be merged with zMerge to condense your plugin count if needed. While this was used for smaller mods and patches previously, the guide (as of v6.0.0+) will no longer use this process in favor of compacting / flagging plugins as ESLs now that all the necessary tools are up-to-date and able to handle lite plugins (ESLs) and loads > 254 plugins.

In MO2:
  - In MO2, launch zEdit in the executables drop-down box.
  - On the opening screen, select [zMerge] in the first drop-down and click [Start Session].
  - Click the [Create Merge] button.
  - In pop-up's [Details] tab, name the merge (the filename will update automatically). Leave the Merge Method as the default (Clobber).
  - Go to the [Plugins] tab, select all the plugins to be merged, and click [OK].
  - Under the [Load Order] tab, check the [Use game load order] option.
  - Under the [Data] tab, make sure all options under the headers are selected, with the exceptions of [Bethesda Archives] and [General Assets].
  - Select [OK].
  - Find the box containing the merge you just created. In the upper-right area of that box, click [Build].
  - When zEdit finishes running, exit.
  - In MO2, the new merged mod will be located at the bottom (you may have to [Refresh] your view.
  - Once the merge is complete, placed in your load order, and activated, you can use the Merge Plugins Hide function in MO2 to deactivate the plugins included in the merge.

Flag Plugin As ESL[edit]


Mods flagged with ESL can be flagged as an ESL, thereby keeping it from counting towards your plugin limit. It is safe (and faster) to wait until the end and flag all plugins at one time. This does not have to be done as you install them (just do not forget to do so).

- In MO2, launch SSEEdit in the executables drop-down box.
- Select the plugin in the left pane.
- Right click the field next to [Record Flags] in the right pane (do not click on Record Flags, but the field to the right of it).
- Select [Edit], check the [ESL] box in the pop-up, then click [OK].
- Exit SSEEdit.

Find Plugins That Can Be Flagged ESL[edit]

While not technically something that is required for the guide, this is a good tool to use if you are nearing the plugin limit and want to find plugins that can be flagged as ESL to reduce the count. Handy if you are adding to the guide.

- In MO2, ensure all your plugins are activated in the Right Pane and launch SSEEdit in the executables drop-down box.
- In the pop-up, hold [Shift] and click [OK].
- Once loaded, right click anywhere in the left pane and select [Apply Script].
- In the pop-up, find Find ESP plugins which could be turned into ESL in the Script drop-down box and click [OK].
- Review the output messages for any plugins that include Can be turned into ESL by adding ESL flag in TES4 header.
- Use the How To >> Flag Plugin as ESL to flag all plugins with this message.
- Exit SSEEdit.

Compact Forms and Flag ESL[edit]


Mods with a Compact tag will need to have their forms compacted and then flagged as ESL.

- In MO2, launch SSEEdit in the executables drop-down box.
- Right click the plugin in the left pane and select [Compact FormIDs for ESL]. Select [Yes] if prompted with a warning.
- Use the How To >> Flag Plugin as ESL to flag the plugin as ESL.

Add Plugin As A Master[edit]

As of v5 of the guide, there is one instance in which you need to add a plugin as a master for another mod - RDO-CRF+USSEP Patch needs to have Relationship Dialogue Overhaul.esp as a master in order for LOOT to sort the patch correctly.

- In MO2, with both plugins selected, launch SSEEdit in the executables drop-down box and click [Run].
- In the pop-up, hold [Shift] and click [OK].
- In the left pane, select the mod that needs a master added. [Right-Click] the mod and select [Add Masters].
- Tick the mod that needs to be added as a master, and click [OK].
- Exit SSEEdit, allowing the mod to be saved.

Change / Update A Master[edit]

On rare occasions, you may need to change a Master from one plugin to another. While not currently necessary as of v5, it has been needed in the past when the name of a plugin is changed and a patch requiring that plugin has not been updated to reflect the new name. This is currently the only process for which Wrye Bash is required with this guide.

- In MO2, launch Wrye Bash in the executables drop-down box and click [Run].
- In the left pane, select the mod for which a master needs to be changed/updated.
- In the right pane, under the Masters: section, find the master plugin that needs to be changed/updated, [Right-Click] and select [Change to...].
- In the pop-up, navigate to the plugin and [Double-Click] the new plugin.
- Close Wrye Bash.


Game Won't Start[edit]

If you are experiencing an issue with MO2 locking, loading the VFS, and instantly unlocking without a game start, you most likely have a Missing Master. Check the right pane for any errors (! in a red and white triangle). Roll your mouse over any mod(s) with this symbol and check if any plugins are listed under the Missing Masters section of the pop-up.

Splash Screen Loads, But No Menu[edit]

Some problems may manifest as an infinite menu - the game appears to launch, you see the splash screen, but the menu never shows up. The most common reason this has occurred with the guide is an issue with merges - most prominently with the provided NPC Patch and/or SkyRem Patch. These patches require certain mods to "win" over others in the merges (Merged Creatures, Merged Equipment, Merged Patches, etc). You must first identify the offending merge by using SSEEdit to Check for Errors on the NPC/SkyRem Patch. If errors appear, locate the merge causing the issue by using the first two characters of the FormID. Once identified, use zEdit to rebuild this merge, making sure the necessary plugins are present and in the correct order (use the Merged ... sections as a reference). You may also want to revisit Step I to ensure zEdit is setup correctly, and the Merge Mods section of this How To to check your zEdit options (such as the Use game load order option being set in each merge). While some of these issues may result in a stable game, just with inconsistencies based on the intended result, some can cause the game to not load properly if the patch is looking for a record that has an error due to the wrong mod in the merge winning over the one intended based on load order.

Crashing (CTDs)[edit]

The most common reason for experiencing CTDs with the guide: Improperly porting LE mods and failing to optimize mesh files with CAO. During the Step Checks, if you experience CTDs, the first step is to review the Part of the guide you just completed for any CAO and Port tags to ensure these were completed correctly. This has fixed the vast majority of CTD issues reported. Mods most commonly reported for this:

  • Extended UI
  • Enhanced Skyrim Factions - The Companions Guild
  • Thieves Guild Requirements

Face Bugs[edit]

In short, Face Bugs occur when one mod changes the appearance of a NPC, then another mod changes another aspect of the same NPC and ends up overwriting the appearance changes. This is a very over-simplified explanation, but should suffice in helping resolve any face-bugs. If you notice a face-bug, revisit Step 4 Part C and check your Load Order to ensure the mods are in the correct order (left pane).

LOOT - So many problems[edit]

Follow the guide - the messages, errors, warnings, and anything else LOOT throws your way will be handled as we go. In many cases, these will not go away until the Final Steps where much of the patching is completed. LOOT is a fantastic tool to help get your load order right - this is its main function and the primary reason we use it in the guide. Anything else you see in LOOT is added based on mod author/user feedback. While great at pointing you in the right direction for cleaning, incompatibilities, etc... all of this has been handled within the guide even if not explicitly stated.

End of Home Page

SkyRem Guide Pages

Home Page <-----
Section I
Section II
Section III
Section IV
Final Steps

SkyRem Guide Support

Discord: Discord Channel for all things SkyRem (Guide and Mods).
Patreon: Support SkyRem development via Patreon.
PayPal: Support with a one-time donation via PayPal.
Trello: See guide development progress on Trello.