My Time at Portia

Ultimate Skyrim Collection: Gate to Sovngarde

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It’s rare for a mod collection to come along that's been constructed with utmost care and attention to detail, where each mod serves a very specific purpose and contributes to a magnificent game experience. Gate to SovnGarde, the Skyrim SE total overhaul by JaySerpa, is just that.

Carefully crafted by modder and content creator JaySerpa, this collection brings together 980 mods to expand and deepen your Skyrim experience. Anyone that follows Jay on Twitch has seen this collection come to life and evolve through careful testing, tweaking and community interaction. The collection is heavily focused on immersion, roleplaying and building a dynamic world that changes over time and responds to the actions you take.

I managed to catch up with Jay and get his insights into his modding journey and the development of this special collection. Enjoy the chat!


Hi Jay, it’s been a few years since you first prostrated yourself before the gods of Tamriel! Let’s start with your modding journey, how did it all begin?

Hi Mat! I started modding Skyrim almost 10 years ago, back when I thought “it’s just a few mods, I don’t need a mod manager tool for this”. Needless to say, I quickly realised my mistake when I completely wrecked my Skyrim installation. It’s been quite the journey since then until now. Around 3 years ago I decided to stop waiting for the mods I wanted to see in the game and I started learning how to make my own mods.

It was quite tough at the beginning as I didn’t really have a background in game development or anything like that, but I must say it’s super satisfying to make your own creations and share them with the community. Also, most mod authors are super helpful and will lend you a hand, so I encourage everyone to give mod making a try and reach out if you get stuck!


This collection feels like the distillation of a lot of time spent immersing yourself in the world and scratching your own itch to build the game as you want to see it. Are there some general principles that guided your approach?

I approached Gate To Sovngarde the same way I tend to approach the rest of my mods: the mods I included should feel like a natural extension of Skyrim, while giving the player more agency and having the world react to your choices. Roleplaying is at the heart of the collection and I think it’s certainly needed as most of us have been playing Skyrim for pretty much a decade now, so it’s always fun to play different types of characters.




I’ve tuned into your stream quite a few times and really enjoyed the interactive and curious approach you take to playing the game. How much has engagement with your viewers helped to mould this collection?


The community has helped me immensely in terms of choosing this or that mod, helping track down bugs and offering mod suggestions. It’s really been a group effort in that regard.

But also… a lot of the mods I’ve created over the years have come straight from the streams! Most of my mods have a funny story behind them and are a result of interactions with other community members. I’m playing the game and suddenly someone might notice something that is missing or not as cool as it could be, and 10 minutes later we’re making the mod come true in Creation Kit. The streams can be a lot of fun in that regard. You also have fellow mod authors popping in and out and offering their expertise, helping users, etc.





The mods you have chosen range from small visual tweaks like Better Butterflies and Smoking Torches and Candles, right up to full city overhauls and full UI updates. Are there any specific mods that you want to point out as most influential in this collection?


I think the most influential mods of the collection are those that add more player choice (Check out the mods by Parapets, SomethingObscure, Andrealphus, Abramcf and my own Quest Expansion series!) But also mods that turn Skyrim into a more dynamic world (Environs, Lawbringer, Skyrim Realistic Conquering, Reputation and my own NPCs React mods).
These are, I would say, the core aspects of the collection. This does not mean the rest of the game is left untouched though.

The collection improves pretty much everything from cities, retextures, NPC visuals, gameplay, etc. I find, however, these other aspects are ultimately very much up to the user and they might want to tweak them to their liking, which is totally possible and encouraged. Everyone should feel free to mod my collection and improve upon it!





The Community Shaders plugin from Doodlum feels pretty performance friendly and the collection runs well on a mid-level machine. Can you talk about how you settled on this graphical modification over alternatives?


I always like to put user friendliness first when it comes to my mods, so I knew from the start I wanted to have a “1-click installation” process for the collection. 

I also wanted to find a good balance between amazing visuals and good performance. With these two things in mind, the choice to go with Community Shaders was an easy one.

Ultimately, the user still has the choice to install something more graphically demanding like Reshade or ENB on top if they wish to do so, and the process for this is super simple.


(Also worth mentioning the recent Light Limit Fix from Doodlum, a new and exciting fix which allows for unlimited dynamic lights).




In fact, every mod you have added to this collection is probably a trade-off in terms of performance or leaving something else out. What were some of the more difficult decisions you made?


Indeed! Another factor was the weight of the collection, as I wanted the collection to stay within a manageable size. 
There are SO many amazing retexture mods out there… and I sort of wanted to add them all. “4K cheese? Sure!” - We’ve all been there. But in the end I figured the smartest thing would be to offer a strong base with the incredible Skyland AIO and a couple of other mods and then let the user decide how crazy they want to go with textures depending on their hardware and personal taste. 

Textures are one of the few mod categories you can hardly break your game with, so I encourage everyone to install as many texture mods as they like!


Looking back, we previously discussed some of the challenges and resistance you faced when first getting into modding. Are there any insights you can offer to new modders, or specific resources that helped you accelerate your learning?


Just sit down and start messing around with the tools! There are fantastic tutorials out there, (Shoutout to DarkFox, GamerPoets and the recently released SkyrimScripting series!) but for me personally… Nothing beats just playing around in Creation Kit and making your own plugins and learning from your mistakes. Those are the lessons you never forget. In my case, I never wanted to make more than one mod. But making that first mod I ended up learning a lot of things that I ultimately used in another mod. And making that new mod led me to learn new things, which ended up in a third mod. And the cycle continues until today! And like I mentioned previously, if you get stuck, just reach out to someone who has already done something similar to what you want to make! I’m always happy to help out and so are most mod creators out there.


Will the allure of Skyrim modding hold your attention over the coming months? Any plans you might want to share in terms of new projects, new games, new direction?


So right now… I need a small break. I usually stick to 1 mod a month, which is fairly manageable considering I have an actual boring “real life” job.  But this Summer, I’ve published 8 mods just so I could finalise the collection and I’m completely beat haha.

I guess you could say now is the perfect time to play a new game and relax a little. Bethesda, if you’re reading this, hook me up with a code for Starfield. Those space mods ain’t going to make themselves.


There can often be a conflict for modders, between the need to commercialise their work and earn a buck, at the same time wanting to keep modding free and accessible. I’m a big advocate for our DP system and we continue to look at other ways to help modders benefit from their efforts. Do you have any thoughts on this, or anything you would like to see from Nexus Mods to further support mod authors?


I think many of us share the same dream of earning a living doing what we love. I can relate to that. However, I personally struggle with the idea of paid mods or Patreon-locked mods, as it feels disrespectful to all the thousands of mod authors that spend their time creating mods and making them available for free. Right now most people think “it’s just $5 dollars, I’m going to get that mod”, which is fair, but most of us tend to use hundreds of mods. Could you afford to pay $5 for each of them?

I think the NexusMods’ approach is the right one. Mods remain free for the user and mod authors are encouraged to keep doing what they love. As the Donation Points program keeps expanding, we’ll get to see more and more mod authors leave their 9 to 5 jobs for full-time modding. Thanks guys for everything you do!


Any other shoutouts?


I’ve mentioned a lot of mod authors already throughout the interview, but I cannot say no to more shoutouts! Shoutout to everyone who puts up with me on Twitch, shoutout to all the users who stop to drop a positive comment on every new mod (after 3 years you end up recognizing all the avatars!), shoutout to my friend RacoonDance (creator of the classic “Hunters Not Bandits”), shoutout to TheCyclist (I think I have all of their mods installed), shoutout to TateTaylorOH and EpicCrab (for encouraging me to start making mods), shoutout to MissileMann for always being kind, and shoutout to….... Mat! Hello?

No! I’m not done, I have a list of 100 others!

Mat, I-... *beeeeeep*


Ahem, looks like Jay dropped off the call. Time to go and check out his latest stream!


In conclusion, if you want to reignite your passion for Skyrim, while maintaining the vanilla experience you love, this is the collection for you. I thoroughly recommend tuning into the JaySerpa stream and also supporting him on Patreon if possible.

JaySerpa is one of the true community gems driving to maintain an open and positive modding community. As well as checking out this collection, please go and send some love to the amazing mod authors whose work is featured in this collection. Enjoy the fruits of their labours!

Get the Gate to Sovngarde collection here.


Hopefully you enjoyed this discussion with JaySerpa and his insights into the building of Gate to Sovngarde. We will continue our series of interviews with collection curators and mod authors. If there are any other collections or authors you want to share with the community, please do get in touch.

94 comments

  1. RhaevynHart
    RhaevynHart
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    I hope Jay puts this on Wabbajack one day. Sorry to all you guys here on Nexus but I will never leave my beloved Mod Organizer 2, just have zero interest in using Vortex. Sure would love to play this modlist though.
    1. VirtualLich
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      You can simply install collections using Vortex and migrate to MO2 using MMM
    2. dmikewilcox
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      I have been against Vortex since the beginning, and love Mod Manager 2.  The thing is though, I decided a few weeks ago to try it, so I could download collections for Daggerfall, Morrowind, and Oblivion.  I never played them much, and have no idea how to mod them, or what mods they need.  I discovered that Vortex is superior.  It lets you throw any mod in you wish, and if it does not work will revert your game folder automatically.  It also does a lot of the grunt work and thinking for me.
    3. MurkaClause
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      I discovered that Vortex is superior

      man thats crazy, anyways you ever tried skooma
    4. Kenchad69
      Kenchad69
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      lol 
    5. bschnappes
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      You do you of course, and I might be wrong on some specifics, but MO2 doesn't install to your game folder at all, it creates a separate data folder for each profile, which makes it very easy to revert any changes. I'm guessing you know this since you've used it, so maybe I'm missing something about what you described as being a Vortex feature.
    6. STANirvanaIND
      STANirvanaIND
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      Pretty sure you're talking about the Fallout Mod Manager (FOMM) not Mod Organizer which is a totally different beast (and never touches your data folder)
    7. VikMorroHun
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      @bschnappes: So?  Vortex doesn't install anything in the Data folder either.  It uses links (preferably hardlinks).
    8. Andizzzzy
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      Vortex has certainly gotten better, but its entire purpose or reason for existence is that it is user-friendly for people that are not use to modding yet, by that very definition it is basic. If you're an advanced modder, someone that started out manually modding, used Wrye Bash, Mo1 for years, then Mo2 is the place to be. Vortex allows nowhere NEAR the amount of freedom and control you have like Mo2 does.

      Generally I use Vortex for games that will only take a 10-100 mods or so, like Baldur's Gate, Cyberpunk, Hogwarts Legacy etc. But for games like Skyrim, Fallout, Starfield or Witcher 3 which I tend to use 300-2000 mods then yeah, its going to be Mo2.
  2. seyjoh
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    Anyone know how to get bhunp to be compatible with this? I prefer my character with those "physics".
  3. TDuBs28
    TDuBs28
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    ive added everything but i keep getting booted out the game after scrolling through the hair options. anyone else have this problem?
  4. cjc75
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    I haven't been through the entire list... yet...
    But I'm curious as to why some of the most important mods ever made for Skyrim/Skyrim SE... are not included?

    Ruins Clutter Improved
    Static Mesh Improvement Mod
    Lanterns of Skyrim

    ...there are others...

    Mods that have been around since the original Skyrim; then remade for SE...  that were always deemed as the "must have" ones, to almost every player...
    Yet, I don't see them included in here?   
    Maybe some other mods that work better then these, were found?
    Or just some compatibility issue with the current list?

    I was also surprised to see Falskaar not included, yet Wyrmstooth is?   I always considered Wyrmstooth as an unfinished WIP, while Falskaar is so well developed, the guy who made it was offered a job by a rival game developer.  However, to be fair, the last time I tried Wyrmstooth was before Skyrim SE was ever conceived of and we were ALL still playing our HEAVILY modded and ENB'd original Skyrim installations... and Wyrmstooth just felt, very unfinished, and not very populated... 
    Maybe its gotten better since?

    Also the The Grey Cowl of Nocturnal?   Another well made 'dlc" type mod that adds to the story of the game; not included?   

    Climates of Tamriel? 
    Ok, I can live without this one, but I was pleasantly pleased to see True Storms included, as I consider it the better of the two!

    I see various animation mods on the list, yet no FNIS?

    Sooo, yea, just curious as why some of the various "must haves" .. have not, been included?
    1. haurora
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      I think it's just a matter of performance and/or preferences. SMIM can be affect performance for low end pc for example. CoT is a weather mod but people often have their favorite. For me it's still Obsidian Weathers. This collection doesn't include all " DLC mods " because it's not his goal
    2. Euphan
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      You must have been away from Skyrim modding for a while then.
      Nemesis has been the new standard instead FNIS for a few years already.
    3. bschnappes
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      And Nemesis is great, it might just be a testament to my own improved understanding, but FNIS was a pain in my arrow-entrenched knee at the time.
    4. 7Heavengodz7
      7Heavengodz7
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      BC Lux is better than Lanterns of Skyrim
    5. IamTT
      IamTT
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      wyrmstooth is by far more polished than falskaar, next to that FNIS is heavily superceded by NEMESIS
  5. tedbash
    tedbash
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    Gatekeeping for Vortex, more likely.
    1. Flynnon
      Flynnon
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      Do tell please
    2. bschnappes
      bschnappes
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      Collections are exclusive to Vortex if I'm not mistaken, meaning you'd have to manually install if you use MO2, or switch to Vortex for this installation. Maybe there is a way to convert collections into wabbajack lists or something, maybe/probably not though.

      edit: "You can simply install collections using Vortex and migrate to MO2 using MMM" according to another user.
  6. xHaknslashx
    xHaknslashx
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    Apologies for any unwanted questions or comments by me.  i will fully re-install the pack to try and fix everything myself.....  Love the collection even if im struggling to make it work perfect.. Kudos Jay
  7. xHaknslashx
    xHaknslashx
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    1. xHaknslashx
      xHaknslashx
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    2. cspieler
      cspieler
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      Perhaps it was https://www.nexusmods.com/skyrimspecialedition/mods/21296
  8. dannyrmortenson1993
    dannyrmortenson1993
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    tried to play this collection and it lasted 15 minutes before i removed the whole thing. sorry bro but nolvus is better imo.
    1. jayserpa
      jayserpa
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      Fair enough! The lists have very different approaches and objectives, so it's only natural one will appeal more to some people than the other.  
    2. xHaknslashx
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  9. xHaknslashx
    xHaknslashx
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  10. xHaknslashx
    xHaknslashx
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