Skyrim


So you're addicted to Skyrim, and you're addicted to using mods...

You have a mod list that is running 100 deep, but you are starting to experience undesirable performance from the game: random CTD's, unexpected mod behavior, broken quests, etc.

This guide will help beginner and intermediate mod users alike. There are a few basics you should understand about how mods work and how the Creation Game Engine handles those mod files.


First of all, think of Skyrim's Creation Engine like a high performance race car engine. Both have tons of "moving parts" and even the slightest misaligned gear or misfiring sparkplug will degrade your performance rapidly, if not bring the whole thing to a crashing halt. Also, like a racing engine, it needs to be maintained and kept "clean" on a regular basis. You can't expect to drive a top fuel race car continuously without going through very regular maintenance check-ups and tweaks.

Skyrim's engine is a delicate beast. If treated properly, it has the capability of producing some pretty brutal performance, and with the proper tweaks and mods, it can output a performance index that is much greater than Bethesda ever intended.

All of this comes at a price. You should never expect to simply 'drop in' a bunch of mods and expect it all to work out of the box. Most of the time it will (especially if the mods are fairly simple), but you should always understand why or why not.


Since you are here on this mod's page, you are probably ready to graduate to installing more complex mods whether you know it or not (or maybe you already have, but still want to learn more about how mods can work together). Here are a few tips to keep in mind:


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1. READ the Mod description - I cannot stress this enough. ALWAYS read through the entire mod description so you get a feel for exactly what the mod does, as well as known issues/conflicts, FAQ's, special installation/uninstall instructions, etc. Never assume just because a mod looks to be a run of the mill "armor mod" that all you do is drop it into NMM and expect to craft it at the nearest forge or whatever.


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2. Browse the contents of the mod - Even if you use automatic download with NMM, i strongly suggest you also download manually and open the contents to see whats exactly under the hood. The mod files may not make much sense to to beginners but at least familiarize yourself with what components the mod is actually installing. Some things to especially consider are:

- Scripts. Some mods may install a few to a ****-ton of scripts. The quantity of scripts is generally not an issue (skyrim itself has about 10,000 script files), it is more about script syntax and quality of how they are written etc. Now, I don't expect you to be able to open them up and understand exactly what the scripts do, but just keep in mind if there are scripts or not (because this can often factor in to troubleshooting mods, especially based on patch version number, since many script functions require minimum patch specs)

- File size. Open and browse through the texture files, check to see just how many .dds files are very large. If you have a ton of .dds files that are all like 10mb or larger, make sure your system can handle it. Using too many high res textures will drop your FPS and sometimes CTD unexpectedly. Luckily, the game will only parse the textures it needs at any given time. So, even if the mod's total texture folder size is like 500mb, the game itself will not load all of those simultaneously in memory.


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3. SAVE GAMES - This is probably the single most significant factor in performance health. You need to understand exactly what is written into a save game. Since this is a pretty complex subject, I will go more into detail later. For now, here are a few things you should be doing to reduce the risk of save game corruption.

- SAVE OFTEN. You should have a continuous save game rotation of at least 20 save files deep. This means, always have 19 additional save points at any given time in case you need to load a previous save to undo something that may have gone wrong in your most current save. What I do is save sequentially, and when i hit the 20th save, i overwrite the first one i made, and continue overwriting in sequence. That way, I will always have 19 backups, but not clutter my save folder with hundreds of old saves.

- Make "Landmark" saves. You should always have a handful of important "landmark" saves that never get overwritten, except when reaching a landmark of the same type. For example, I have my first landmark save which has NO MODS installed, directly outside Helgen after completing the initial quest. This save is my fallback to test for save game corruption when comparing to current saves (COC from main menu can also satisfy this purpose, but loading the cleanest save is always the best choice). If i suspect my current save is messed up, i will load this Helgen save to test if the conditions still apply on this save game (if it dows, that means a mod is actively screwing up the game, and not necessarily the cause of the save game data itself). Some other landmark saves would be BEFORE installing a new mod, make a temporary landmark save, so that you always have a return point to load if you don't like the mod.

- Uninstalling mods vs your save game. If you do uninstall a mod, you should try to load the landmark from before having that mod installed. If you progressed in the game too far since then for that to be an option, you need to decide whether the risk is worth it or not. Most of the time, if the uninstall was successfully followed, it shouldn't be an issue. However, there are some things that are PERMANENT even after uninstalling a mod. Scripts, player base stats (such as health, stamina etc), NPC base outfits, Perks (if the mod changed vanilla perks), etc. If a mod makes changes to any of these permanent values, it NEEDS to have a proper uninstall procedure or else you run the very likely risk of corrupting your save to the point of it being unsalvageable. If a mod adds a significant amount of scripts, it also needs a specific uninstall procedure where you need to leave modified inert versions of the scripts in your scripts folder for as long as you continue using your save game. Unfortunately Skyrim's Papyrus scripting engine cannot clean up after itself, so once you install a mod's script, the save game will look for that script.... forever, even after you completely uninstalled the mod. If it cannot find the script, it will dump a handful of errors for each missing script. To illustrate this point, I installed Dawngaurd, then uninstalled after playing for 5 minutes. After deleting dawnguard's BSA, there were over 4000 script errors because it was looking for so many missing scripts. Sometimes these errors can be harmless, but if they compound and stack, they will eventually choke the script engine and rob resources from existing running scripts.

- Monitor save game file bloat. If after you install a new mod, you notice your file size skyrocketting, STOP using the mod immediately. Report the issue to the mod author so that they can implement a fix if possible. The biggest causes of file bloat are: poorly written scripts which use a continuous "unchecked" update loop (i call these "dirty" or "leaking" or "feral" scripts), scripts which do not clean up after themselves (like using placeAtMe to drop an items continuously, but never actually deleting that object eventually - those objects remain in the world and your save game data forever, and will continue to populate increasingly). In all fairness, even some of the vanilla Bethesda scripts have these errors.


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4. LOAD ORDER. Load order is basically the order in which the game will load masters (esm) and plugins (esp). Masters will always load before plugins. If you have multiple plugins that override the same record, the last loaded plugin will take affect. The game will completely ignore previous changes to that record, and not "combine" both changes. In this way, load order plays a significant role in performance and compatibility, because a mod with a higher load order that overrides a record from a mod below it, can actually "break" that mod if the mod's functionality relies on the behavior of the change it applies. I strongly suggest using a tool such as BOSS to maintain your mod list load order.

- Esm vs Esp. As a mod user, there may not be a whole lot you need to know about the difference between esm and esp files, other than the load order restrictions of esms. It should also be noted that there are sometimes inexplicable conflicts that arise from multiple esm files. This can happen with or without mods installed. Dawnguard esm and Update esm can sometimes conflict with itself, as seen even on an Xbox with obviously no mods installed. Often, this esm conflict will cause large static landscape objects to completely disappear from the world. The cause of this is unknown, and can appear even long after either or both esms are installed. This happens a lot with housing mods, since a lot of those use esm files. Sometimes load order of the esms may help reduce this strange glitch, even if none of the esm records overlap (just "one of those things").


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5. STAY CURRENT. You should always try to stay on top of latest versions, both mods and the game itself. Understandably, some users may not want to install the latest game patch due to new bugs sometimes being introduced. If you do decide to stick with an older patch version, you should always check with the mod to see if you meet the minimum patch requirement. Patch versions can include significant changes to the game that will not be recognized if the mod and game patch are out of sync.

- Make sure you are on top of current versions of your mods. It isn't uncommon for a major patch change to break an existing mod. If it looks like the mod is no longer being updated, you will likely have to revert your game to an older patch or uninstall the mod if the performance is being affected. It's a balancing game, and you need to stay on top of it.

- Avoid using ancient esp plugins and especially esms. If you have a mod from before Feb 7 that uses an esp or esm, and you are running a patch that is 1.4 or higher, you should stop using those old files and upgrade to a newer version if possible, or just uninstall them. Those old esp files were created using an outdated tool called TesSnip, which was designed for Fallout (to this day there is no version of TesSnip or TesVsnip that is safe to use for Skyrim's current definitions). With all the new record definitions in Skyrim and its iterative patches, those old definitions found in the esp files will likely cause corruption eventually.


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6. Accept the inevitability. It is ultimately inevitable that some mods simply can never work with one another. Usually, you can tell by the mod's description and what it does - if you already have another mod that does the same thing or similar, it will probably conflict at some point. As a sort of 'rule of thumb', you may want to avoid using too many mods that make unnecessary broad vanilla changes (unless the point of that mod is to be an 'overhaul'). If it is an overhaul mod, it is generally a good idea to only have one overhaul mod of any given type (such as lighting/weather, perks, vampirism, followers, spouses etc.)



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TROUBLESHOOTING

Even after following this guide, and even if you are an experienced mod user, you will eventually run into a problem with mods or unexptected save game corruption. There are a few basic troubleshooting tips you should always try first.

- If you have installed a new mod correctly, followed all the directions, and it seems like everything should work with no conflicts etc. but you still have problems with the mod, check the comments section on the mod page to see if anyone else is having the same issue. If you find that this is a common problem, there may be something wrong with the mod itself (or by coincidence most problems being reported are caused by the same issue - which is very plausible).

- You can run a few basic tests to see if there is a problem with your save game or a mod conflict. To test for save game problems, try quitting to the main menu and open the console (don't load any save game. Type: COC Riverwood into the console. Or, if you have been using my suggestion to create a clean landmark, load your 'virgin' Helgen save (which would be better than a COC). After the game loads, check to see if the mod in question is working properly. If the mod works fine in this test, it means there is a problem in your current game save data. If it is still broken, you can try testing for mod conflicts.

- Testing mod conflicts is a very tedious process. You can start by disabling mods one at a time (starting with the ones you suspect are causing problems first). Always load your clean save or continue with the COC from main menu when running the mod conflict test. If you narrow down a problem mod, try loading your current save game with that mod disabled. If everything works, you can decide to uninstall the problem mod, or try moving its load order down to see if they will play nice together. If the problem mod refuses to cooperate, it needs to be uninstalled. If after disabling the problem mod, your clean game save works, but your current save game does not, it means that the mod needs an uninstall procedure. If the mod author did not prove you with one, it can be almost impossible to determine how to uninstall the mod without a strong knowledge of how the mod works internally. I would suggest PM'ing the mod author for a proper uninstall procedure. If a mod author still refuses to provide one, it is probably a good idea to never use any mods from that author (this is generally rare, most authors are willing to help). If nothing works, you may have to start a new game.

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AmethystDeceiver

21 comments

  1. PrincessAmysDragons
    PrincessAmysDragons
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    Hi there,

    I am playing using this mod in Skyrim SE after downloading the High Def 4-1 version of the mod manually from OG and manually installing it to Skyrim SE. I have the quest in the game, I can get all five locations and all of the materials, but then when I craft the armor in game it is invisible. I have installed this successfully in SE before, but it seems that this time I missed a step somewhere and I'm hoping that someone can help me.

    Installation:
    I manually downloaded the file:
    Black Sacrament Armor V4-1 - High Def

    Included in this file after extraction:

    fomod (folder)
    optional (folder)
    readmes (folder)
    scripts (folder)
    textures (folder)
    BlackSacramentArmor.bsa (file)
    BlackSarcamentArmor.esp (file)

    The files from above that I moved into my H:\Gaming\steamapps\common\Skyrim Special Edition\ Data folder are:

    fomod (folder)
    scripts (folder)
    textures (folder)
    BlackSarcamentArmor.esp (file)

    So, now the items crafter are invisible and make the character invisible when worn but are still there.

    Bugs I know of:
    Moving the BSA file from above into the Data folder causes Skyrim SE to be unable to launch into the game.

    Please if anyone is able to assist in any way it would be greatly appreciated. What haven't I done that I missed to get this working in Skyrim SE?

    Thanks

    Additional:

    Tried this:

    Issues:
    On step 3, if you copy the BSA into the Data folder Skyrim SE will no longer launch.

    1. Download manually from Nexus. Choose either HD or SD version (do not install both).
    2. Extract the 7-zip file and open contents.
    3. Copy everything into your Skyrim/Data folder EXCEPT the Optional and Fomod folder. Overwrite when prompted.
    4. [OPTIONAL] If you wish to install a female body type, open the optional folder, open the fembody folder, and open the folder matching the type of body you wish to install: CBBEcurvy, CBBEslim, UNP, UNPskinny, or UNPblessed (you can refer to images for a comparison shot). Choose ONLY ONE.
    - When you have opened the folder of your choice, copy the Meshes folder located inside and paste into your Skyrim/Data folder. Overwrite when prompted.
    5. [OPTIONAL] Decide whether or not you want to replace Dark Brotherhood's Shrouded Armor in-game.
    - If you choose to replace the Shrouded Armor, open the Optional folder, open the DBReplacer folder and open the folder with the name of the color style you want. copy the BlackSacramentDBReplacer.esp file into your Skyrim/Data folder.
    - Not all color variants are available to The Dark Brotherhood. Some are exclusive to Black Phoenix.

    Make sure all the esm and esp files are active in the skyrim launcher under Data Files.

    Refer to troubleshooting section if need be.
  2. TheWC
    TheWC
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    When i try to activate the mod, it says: File 'update.esm' is not active. The mod was not installed.

    Please help!
    1. abdullahm
      abdullahm
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      Either A) you have a incomplete priate copy of Skyrim, or B) you have never updated your game since v1.0.xx (I never saw the earliest version number I started playing at 1.8.x Skyrim is currently v1.9.xxxx

      So to fix this either;

      B) Get steam to update your game (right click "The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim" under your steam library, Left Click "Properties" Click on the "Local Files" Tab on the properties pop-up, click "Verify Integrity Of Game Cache...") OR

      A) If you can't do this (i.e. have a pirate copy) get a legit skyrim copy (often only $5 - $10 AUD with steam sales) because you have no right to complain a mod doesn't work for you if you don't run a legit copy of the game.
  3. ELDuran
    ELDuran
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    So let me see if I understood correctly, hopefully someone here can help me....

    So lets say a mod description says, "to uninstall you must first go into the console type blah blah blah, save, exit, load save, do this, do that etc....

    If I installed it with NMM and I have a save prior to installing said mod, I don't have to follow those intructions to un install? Just want to make sure if that's ok, or do I still have to follow specific un installation instructions. Thanks!
    1. Cithrian
      Cithrian
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      You have to follow those console commands PRIOR to uninstalling via NMM. It is VERY important that you do so for the integrity of that save game.

      I know this is well, a long time past when you asked, but perhaps it will help someone. Often mods involve scripts which run constantly in the background of your game behind the scenes, and these scripts leave their tendrils buried all over in your save files.

      Removing the physical files of the mods themselves, which is all uninstalling with NMM does (it doesn't touch your save files), without stopping the running scripts essentially leaves those tendrils twisting and turning, squirming wildly within your save file.

      Sometimes this seems to have no effect on gameplay within that saved game world.In fact often it doesn't... initially. But in time, it can make a serious mess of your game in often completely unpredictable ways. And of course sometimes it breaks things immediately and completely. Either way, it's best to be avoided.

      Mind you this does not apply to every mod. Some mods, like those which simply change textures/meshes of existing items/resources can be altered back and forth without ever affecting save games. And some mods simply can never be uninstalled safely, there are no stopquest console commands for them, or their authors never bother to let you know what they are (grrr!, or they are simply too complicated or root themselves too deeply within the mechanics of the savegame's mechanics to be easily removed.

      I hope I'm not rambling too much here, and that this makes some sense. I picked the wrong week to give up coffee I think, my brain hurts!
  4. Drakon009
    Drakon009
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    hey can someone please help? I install the mod with the manager than when I enter the game it appears the Ancient Black Phoenix assassin's quest and when I collect all the five things nothing happens and I go to the forge and there is nothing there in the daedric forging or anything. Please help me. Did I installed the mod incorrectly? Is there something else I need to do?
    1. ZockProfi
      ZockProfi
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      "1. READ the Mod description - I cannot stress this enough. ALWAYS read through the entire mod description..." - Quote from this article.

      If you had read it, you would know that you have to cast the spell you get at the grave sites.
  5. Noirdex1998
    Noirdex1998
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    I cant extract the file, it asks me to open a code.
  6. Sh0ckR3b00t
    Sh0ckR3b00t
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    This was really helpful thank you I do have some questions though...
    1: Installed a certain mod (which will go unnamed for now) & it did not install correctly. I used NMM to do a manual install, realized I did it wrong. When I went to uninstall it NMM crashes says something about Trace Log. I've tried doing what it told me to do but I need a program to view & read dll files. Notepad doesn't look right to me & Open Freely isn't any help either. Can you help me out?
  7. skullo13
    skullo13
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    thanx a ton for this, this was very helpful, clear and simple...
    kudos <img class="emoticon" src="https://forums.nexusmods.com/public/style_emoticons/dark/thumbsup.gif" />
  8. Gilgamesh00
    Gilgamesh00
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    Great guide! Most of the stuff here I had already figured out through experience and common sense so it's great to see a confirmation that I'm doing well. I think it's great that you posted this for people to read since it's indeed very useful information.
  9. KnightKrohler
    KnightKrohler
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    Hi, I am usually a lurker not a poster but I found this guide so useful that I felt compelled to respond. I am a long time mod user, so much of this information was not new, having learned from painful experience what to do and not to do. However you did a great job of consolidating all this advice in one place, congratulations. Your explanation of the file types was also quite instructive since like Hoamaii said I have been curious as well. I would urge you to post this as a wiki since I have found a lack of useful mod user information there. If you do, include the post with the file descriptions.
  10. Zonzai
    Zonzai
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    Nice. I'm going to link to this article in my troubleshooting sections.