To begin modding Skyrim, the very first thing you must do is abandon the Steam Workshop. As tempting as it is to use Workshop mods and as convenient as they are, the Workshop limits the size of the mods that can be uploaded, thereby reducing the capabilities of the mods. Workshop mods cannot be designed to work with external programs such as Skyrim Script Extender and they are limited in what you can fit into an ESP or BSA file. If you do not know what those types of files are, the ESP is an plugin that activates some content, and a BSA is an archive that usually contains files that the ESP needs to run the mod properly. Both the Skyrim HD Realism Project and my personal modset use Skyrim Script Extender (SKSE) and so they cannot rely on the Steam Workshop for downloading and installing mods.
If you do not wish to abandon any Workshop mods you currently have installed, then my guides are not for you. If you are currently using Steam Workshop mods and would like to expand into the unknown, then my guides are definitely for you. If you are an experienced modder and simply wish to recreate an experience I have taken the time to craft, then simply skip to the mod list, download the mods listed, and install them using the notes I provide with each mod.
NOTEFor each of my modlist guides, I will list my personal experience with it and what you can expect to achieve in terms of performance and stability.
So, you've made it this far. It's my best guess, you're ready to start modding Skyrim the way the die-hard modders do it. You may click on the SkyrimLE:Mod Organizer link here, or follow my directions to get started.
But first, why use Mod Organizer (MO)? I personally use it for several reasons
- MO has a simple interface and all the tools you need to install Skyrim Mods are only a button click or two away.
- MO has a profile system that allows you to customize your experience without having to make a backup of your Skyrim game folder. (with limitations)
- MO uses a virtualized folder structure so absolutely NO changes are made to your game until you're ready to play with your mods.
But, you may ask, when I go to download a mod, I'm asked if I want to use something called Vortex. What is that? Clicking on the Vortex button just tells Mod Organizer to download your mod for you. It's pretty easy once you get it set up.
Installing Mod Organizer
You may follow the installation instructions at the original SkyrimLE:Mod Organizer page or you may follow my own directions below. Both should work equally well even though they are different and may conflict in some areas. If you start one set of instructions I highly recommend you finish it or your MO install may not work properly.
Mod Organizer is actually very easy to download and install.
- Head to the MO2 download page and grab the latest installer version (and not the archive version).
- Select the "Manual Download" option and wait for the file to finish downloading.
- Double click it to install Mod Organizer.
- Select all the default install options for Mod Organizer
- When the installer asks you to 'Select Components', scroll all the way to the bottom and make sure that 'Handle Nexus Links' is checked. This will allow you to use the Vortex option with Mod Organizer.
- Click 'Next' until you see an 'Install' button. Click that and Mod Organizer should start.
But why Mod Organizer 2?
Before starting MO for the first time you will need to make sure it can run and does not run into any errors.
To prevent errors, do the following:
- Browse to 'C:\Modding\MO2' or wherever you chose to install Mod Organizer
- Make sure MO2 is not running and then right click the ModOrganizer.exe file
- Select Properties
- Click the 'Compatibility' tab
- Click 'Change settings for all users'
- Make sure that 'Run this program as an administrator' is checked.
- Click OK to close each window.
Now you may:
- Start Mod Organizer 2 for the first time.
- Click 'Yes' to the UAC window that pops up.
- Go through the tutorial, or skip it. If you skip it, I do not know how to restart it so use caution when skipping the tutorial.
- Click the 'wrench' icon in the toolbar, and select the 'Nexus' tab.
- Check 'Automatically Log-in to Nexus' box, insert your Nexus username and password, click 'Associate with "Download with Manager" link', and click OK.
- Optionally go to the 'General' tab in 'Settings' and change the style to a theme of your choice.
- Go to the 'Plugins' tab and click 'Basic diagnosis plugin' on the left and double-click 'true' next to 'check_modorder' and change it to 'false'.
- Go to Workarounds tab and click Back-date BSAs. Otherwise, some mods may not work properly.
- Go to the 'Steam' tab and enter your Steam credentials. This will bypass some Steam DRM by running Steam in the background when you start games that have been installed via Steam.
Making a profile
Mod organizer has a profile system that allows you to save multiple configurations and load orders as well as allowing you to keep your game saves separated so that you do not risk corrupting one or more of them.
NOTEBecause of the MO profile system, when you're instructed to edit your skyrim.ini file or your skyrimprefs.ini file, you will need to do it through Mod Organizer instead of the traditional method. If you do not know what the traditional method is, then you don't need to worry about it, just use the INI Editor built into Mod Organizer to avoid damaging your game.
To create a profile so you can start modding:
- Click the 'profiles' icon in the toolbar and click the 'Create' button.
- Call the new profile whatever you want but do NOT check the 'Default Game Settings' option.
- Click OK.
- Select your new profile and make sure that both 'Use profile-specific Game Saves' and 'Use profile-specific Game INI Files' are checked.
- Click the newly enabled 'Transfer Saves' button and make sure that any previous characters and save files that you wish to play with have been moved over to the right-hand side of the window that pops up.
- Click 'Done' to save your changes.
- Click 'Close' to return to Mod Organizer.
Now you are ready to select your new profile from the 'Profiles' dropdown menu. Do this and you are ready to start modding your games.
NOTEIt is assumed at this point that you either went through the tutorial that popped up when you first opened Mod Organizer or that you plan to read the Mod Organizer Guide. If you skipped the tutorial, then you will need to read (or at least skim through) the guide to familiarize yourself with Mod Organizer and how it works.