-Mods, Stability, and Save Games-

This might be a long one, but probably one of the most important articles you will ever read on the Nexus. It deserves a news flash by Dark0ne if it were up to me, but oh well. Anyways, there is a lot of misinformation among the less knowledgeable members of the modding community, and consequently there is a lot of people recklessly installing & uninstalling mods from there save game. This is general advice, with a few other tidbits thrown in. For those of you who are curious as to just where this information is coming from, thank the members of the TES5Edit team and the Unofficial Skyrim Patch. This is mostly a copy/paste directly from a thread over at Bethesda's official forums, with a few additions thrown in.

First, let's establish this fact:
"Bethesda's official stance is: If you remove a mod you must go back to a save made before the mod was ever installed.

In other words - if you see the "relies on content not in game" error when loading a save, you need to either re-install the missing content or not use that save.

It is up to the modder to make sure that their mods correctly handle the user updating them from older versions and also handle mod users installing them mid-game (hence why the wiki pages on save games exist, and the rather extensive error/warning reporting in Papyrus)."

-SmKViper (Bethesda Programmer)

Now that that's out of the way and in your head, it's highly recommended that you "clean" Update.esm and all the official DLC content that Bethesda releases with TES5Edit. An easy to follow instructional video can be found here. This will reduce crashing and generally improve the stability of your game itself a great deal when you start to incorporate mods into your own game.

Now, once you save your game with a mod installed that mod is permanently tied to your save file. The scripts embeds themselves and some data is permanently changed. When you remove a mod with scripts, your Papyrus logs will complain about it with different levels of severity. Removing some mods will cause nothing more than a warning/notification when you load up your save game (in the Papyrus log), other scripted mods may spam the living hell out of your debug log, overwhelming the scripting engine, causing stack dumps and effectively ruining your save game. There's no way around this unfortunately, it's just how Skyrim modding works. It's not this mods fault or any others.

The overall message is to be *very* selective in what you incorporate into your load order. Make save game back-ups, test mods out before you permanently tie them to your save, and make sure that what you're installing is of high quality.

Deadly Dragons is one of these mods, if you uninstall it, you will orphan some scripts, but it's very minor and you should be able to play your game without any permanent adverse effects. I don't recommend you uninstall the mod either. It's modular, highly customizable, and you can freely switch between the standard & lore-friendly versions (both use the same scripts and nearly identical .esp's) if you decide you want to change things up. Deadly Dragons is also very mature, with a year of constant development. The mod is in a great place on the whole, and unless Bethesda releases some sort of DLC or official patch that ruins the mod, it's unlikely that the mod will ever need any major work again.

General advice:

There is no such thing as a "Clean Save".
The old days of freely removing scripted mods from your game (like past Bethesda titles) are dead and gone. Skyrim doesn't work this way. Scripts imbed themselves into your save game and cannot be removed. If you uninstall or deactivate a mod from your game that contains scripts, your save game still has that data and your Papyrus logs will show that.

Don't recklessly uninstall or deactivate mods or official DLC.
This is already covered above, but just to hammer this home for the lazy who skimmed the article and aren't bothering to actually read it. So I'll say it again; Do not disable/uninstall a mod from a character that you're actually playing, even on a temporary basis. ESPECIALLY OFFICIAL DLC! Disabling a mod is the exact same as uninstalling it completely as far as the game is concerned. Uninstalling bigger mods (especially official DLC) will very likely ruin your save game on a permanent basis. Keep in mind that this only applies to mods that use a .esm/.esp plugin (and use scripts). Texture and mesh replacers are completely free to install and remove as much as you'd like. Though I don't recommend you install/uninstall dozens of mods that add armor/weapon/lighting mods as you please. You can (over time) also corrupt your save game in this way as well.

Install the game outside of the Program files (x86) folder.
On windows 7 and Vista Steam installs the game under c:Program Files (x86)Steam/SteamApps/Common/Skyrim by default. Having the game installed to this folder can cause issues with a lot of mods.

Use a Merged Patch...
If you use a lot of mods and want to make sure that everything is working properly and fully functional, download TES5Edit, look at Gopher's amazing Youtube Channel for some tutorials, get familiar with the program, and make a Merged Patch. It is in your best interest to ensure that everything is working as it should be.

(UPDATE: 9/19/2013) - The "Merged Patch" functionality of TES5Edit is (unfortunately) no longer supported, due to the number of users experiencing problems with it. To quote Sharlikran...

"The biggest problem was that users would have many plugins that had issues in them. Out of order sub-records, bad scripting, and unresolved references mostly. Once imported into the Merge Patch it compounded those issues so the Merge Patch just crashed Skyrim."

While the original advice (Merged Patch + Bashed Patch for leveled lists) still stands, if you experience problems or crashing with a Merged Patch, it's due to the plugins (mods) you're using. Like I've said in other places of this article, be selective with what you install into your game (well constructed high-quality mods that are not bug-wridden or made with TES5Snip prior to the Creation Kit's release) and you should be just fine.

Use a Bashed Patch
It's best to let Wrye Bash handle the merging of the games leveled lists. There are basic tutorials on how to do this easy procedure.

Create backups before adding/removing/updating mods.
In case something goes wrong you can restore the backup, that way you don't have to reinstall everything or lose considerable progress.

Only install a few mods at a time.
Not all mods work together. If there are any bugs or your game crashes it's easier to find the mods that cause them. It's often a combination of mods that cause these issues and not a particular mod on it's own.

Be careful when installing older mods.
Mods made before the creation kit was released can cause stability issues if they have not been updated. It's generally advised to never use anything older than February 7, 2012. Mods made before the Creation Kit released were made with TES5Snip, which at the time saved plugins with out of order sub-records and truncated data. This only applies to mods that use a .esp/.esm plugin(s).

Make sure you have a proper load order: Use LOOT
If you use mods that have .esm or .esp files then it's important that your mods are loaded in the proper order. LOOT is the successor to BOSS and is a great starting place to organize your load order. But it is not a fix-all solution. You still need to be mindful of what mods your using and what mods need to take priority over others.

Don't mess with uGrids settings. Ever. Period.
Tampering with Skyrim's uGrids (real draw distance) settings has been advertised on a number of high-profile sites. This was early in Skyrim's life cycle and the long-term ramifications of it were not yet known. Increasing this value past the default (5) can lead to general game instability and eventual save-game corruption. Understand that you are basically playing Russian Roulette with your game here, as you are forcing the game to load 2-3 times more data than it is designed to. Even if you have a +$7,000 PC tower that can run a small city. The reality is that Skyrim's engine simply cannot handle the increase load and remain stable for long-term and reliable play. Even with the release of the new ENBoost from Boris Vorontsov this is still true today.

I'm talking Intel i7 3960X 5.0Ghz, multiple Nvidia GTX Titan's, a SSD Raid-0 array, and all on liquid cooling. Yes, I'm talking about the most powerful hardware you can buy at this very second and overclocked to the very limit. It's not the hardware, it's simply engine limitations.

Do *NOT* use the old .ini tweaks for Bethesda's High Resolution Texture Pack DLC.
Just use the plugins. Seriously. This method of getting the HD DLC to work was fixed by Bethesda and outdated many many months ago. There's no reason for it anymore. If you use these .ini tweaks, your game will just over-write these files with the official DLC masters low-resolution textures, making them useless. If you're truly strapped for .esp slots then it's a minor miracle that your game still runs at all.


Never overwrite a save game.
The game doesn't overwrite a save game but instead deletes the old file and then replaces it with a new one. So "overwriting" a file is the same as creating a save on an unused save slot.

Don't use auto saves or quick saves.
The game handles auto saves and quick saves the same way it handles saves done through the menu. Therefore they are no different than regular saves. Point 1 also applies here.

If you die restart the game before loading a save game.
In general this shouldn't be an issue but there have been reports that some mods require a restart of the game.

Restart the game before switching to another character.
In some cases data gets carried over when you swap to another character. So the safest thing to do is to restart the game (quit to desktop) before doing so.

Updating or uninstalling a mod might corrupt all subsequent savegames, leading to crashes, poor performance and excessive savegame size.
Updating or uninstalling a mod which uses Skyrim's scripting system should cause no real issues if the mod author has coded it correctly. However, it is possible for a perfectly working mod to have accidental coding errors which might cause irretrievable savegame corruption if it is uninstalled or updated. Some mods, by their very nature, will be more likely to have these errors than others. As a general rule of thumb, updating mods without uninstalling them is safer, but still not guaranteed safe. Exercise caution, and always be prepared to revert to a save made before the mod was ever installed.

Programs that optimize textures can cause crashes if used in conjunction with certain mods.
Optimizing textures can degrade their visual quality and by doing so increase game performance but it's considered safe to do so.

Programs that optimize meshes can cause crashes if used in conjunction with certain mods.
I't's not recommended that you do this currently.

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  1. deleted11773208
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    I have a question no guide seems to answer: Let's say I uninstall a script heavy mod mid game which ruins my save due to orphaned scripts. Ok. Now if I delete all my saves and start a new game, will that new game also suffer performance wise, or do orphaned scripts/fragments of old mods only affect the save they were used on?

    1. Chrisbronndal
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      I'm wondering the same thing myself
    2. AngelsDream
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      I'm not 100% sure, but I ruined a lot of my saves in the past with script heavy mods, and starting a new game never contained the problems of the ruined saves, if they are still here it means that something is wrong with the game itself, could be load order, maybe ini files, mods incompability etc...
    3. magodelaoscuridad
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      some mods use mod scripts i mean that scripts are by default in skyrim.esm or update.bsa when you remove the mod with mod script, some mod arrays still in update.bsa you must have a original update.bsa backup i have a base backup,install the game and backup all from data folder then start modding.
      And all in SEQ folder are always active so check what you have there
    4. Darkstyler35
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      Thanks a lot for these informations !
    5. DiscipleDarkfriend
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      I know this is a really really late reply but to give a straight answer for those who may not know. No. If you start a new game the scripts from your last game will not touch it UNLESS you start a new game without exiting the game entirely first.

      So in short if you are starting a new game, exit game if you are on an old character. Restart game>start new game. You should always exit the game entirely if you are switching characters and using script heavy mods anyway.
  2. Lovehorzez
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    So, I downloaded some new mods and one on them wasn't compatible with a mod i had installed and so I was really stupid and uninstalled the mod i already had installed which then crashed my game. I realized this and activated the old mod again then uninstalled the mod that wasn't compatible with it. Now I've got exactly the same mods and save files as before but my character still won't load. It works to start a new game but I can't play on my old character which is really sad because I've spent more than 120 hours on that very character and I'm very fond of it.

    What can I do? Is my character doomed?
    1. MajorFreak
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      i know this is a late reply, but i have found that in the majority of cases where i can get the game up and running to the main menu, that starting a new game and THEN loading your old save from that starting point works almost every time to prevent that dreaded CTD upon session load.

      obviously, backing up the mod author's article above, i'm basically playing russian roulette with my save game eventually running the risk of building up so many small errors into a huge snowball effect later on.

      personally, at this stage of my modding career, i can live with this corrupted save game as long as it plays, simply because i (a) haven't found out which mods i've installed i actually enjoy playing with (b) haven't scoured loverslab/nexus enough to find all there is to find
  3. TheMarduk
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    I had some 150 hours of gameplay... lost by the damn papyrus confusion. I did everything right, I've cleaned it all using TESEdit, to have hundreds of high quality mods toke me A MONTH to search it, to test it first in some boring save and a very extensive revising. Just like a marine would do to activate his Claymore on the ground - like those mods are a very volative bomb ready to explode any time or another. It was all for nothing. I had constant CTDs at the point that the game became unplayable (it was already unplayable before the mods since skyrim without it feels unfinished)

    But my mistake was exactly that. I did what the internet and forums told me to do, instead of coming here first. I recklessly installed a few couples of mods with questionable quality but also many ones with "gems'' in the description... What killed my game was exactly those types. I think it isn't fair nor polite, but no point in hiding it. The messy Real Clouds from Solie was gorgeous to look at, but dangerous with the sinister scripting. When it comes to the 2.0 update, I was doomed already by attempting that update. He didn't even updated his README files, there was absolutely no information regarding the changes... no specific procedures of installation or at least, nothing clearly written in there just some words ''unistall the last, install the new" if you find some there. I mean, I know it is all for free but c'mon... For some reason, I thought that it won't be a problem to update it all using my same save. Also, after updating Immersive Armor, my game wasn't the same anymore. CTDs got so bad, that I had only one minute of gameplay before it strikes. So called ''compatible'' mods aren't all really compatible, it is Skyrim's nature to be buggy with it's own DLCs.

    Thanks Bethesda. Now I understand your methods. Rush the game, sell it to get rich, uses a master marketing formula and let us rot trying to fix things you should have done in first place. You want to now what made my game unplayable? It wasn't the quality of those mods... these guys are heroes. It was the lack of polishing on your games.
    1. UhuruNUru
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      Actually Bethesda are no worse or Better than Most Game Devs Out there the real culprits are the game publishers who set a release date for purely marketing reasons like 11-11-11 chosen purely because it looked good and even more importantly because it maximised sales before Xmas.
      Next comes console makers delaying 4th gen consoles for years because they knew it would reveal consoles can no longer compete with PC's, consoles grew so big because at release they were better than all PC''s available 2 or 3 years Later PC was best again and then a new console took the lead again but the gap was less.
      PS3 and XBox 360 only just = best PC at launch and was soon left behind, but consoles had the publishers by the balls. Forcing exclusives and MS reallyt screwed haed as no1 forcing inferior product on PS£ and PC. PS£ though better hardware was a b&@*$ to program for so that only really mattered to them over last 2-3 years.
      PC though much better got hobbled games.
      Now PC=2 x PS4 =2 x XBox 1 in Rough terms.
      Why can't consoles keep up Power they must = 300W maximum
      PC is unlimited but about 1000W is required for top PC consoles can't match that which is why they are pushing multi-media abilities (TV stuff) if VR takes off even more power will be required. Console gaming is dead.
      Those thinking why dont they increase the power then.
      They can but it requires Bigger Grapics Capability more cooling more space between components and a bigger case, guess what that's a PC not a console.

      Oh yeah Skyrim Engine is old and 32 bit bec ause PS£ XBox 360 are old and 32 bit, it was designed for them not PC's.
      Shesons Much Acclaimed Memory Patch, desrved acclaim but the game engine was set that way before Dragonborn/1.9 patch it was reduced to get dragonborn to work on PS3 Nothing to do with PC game but consoles are more important and they coudn't have PC being better could they. MS rules even when it's not directly involved, but still applied. Long after XBox release.

      Best thing PC gamers can do is support games made for PC like Star Citizen. Last I look they had $45 Million in crowd funding. They were talking of releasing a Dog Fighting Module for last Xmas. Still not released yet, none of the backers are complaining we know why it's not out is because it's not good enough yet, they are creating new tech and it's will be released when it's ready and not because some suit thought the date looked good on the advert. Back the devs direct and they can give pulblishers the finger.
      Watch Dogs out tomorrow have you prtordered it? Why for some "extra" content I'll get if i buy in Sale 6 month later. I'll crowdfund knowing Devs get all my money and I get a game made right.
      Preorder never, not for publisher to take 90% for screwing up the game I wanted. I'll get a cheap and bugfixed version later with all the Preorder content as well.
    2. EinsGotdemar
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      Slow clap, man. Slow clap.
    3. NexusC
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      To UhuruNUru: TL; DR All.

      I disagree.
      No matter how much I have banned World of Warcraft from being played in my home, I must say they have done a fantastic job with the game being stable, even with lots of mods.

      I will at the same time mention FunCom since it is quite an achievement they have pulled off with Anarchy Online & The Secret World considering there's only few left working on the game.

      I know I am listing MMO's and we're mostly talking RPG's; but you said "Most game Devs Out there".

      Just some honorable mentions from me that there are good games which are stable with mods out there.

      PS: Skyrim is so far the only game I felt really need modding of all RPG games I've played.
      I decided to NOT start checking mods when I played Fallout NV & Fallout 4 just because I find all this modding more of a work than playing the game.
      And I do not regret it so far.

      But I do regret getting into modding Skyrim
    4. Darkstyler35
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      Thanks a lot for these informations !
  4. Modstaker
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    Im screwed 4 life...
    Damn I really messed it up lol.
  5. GunnerBlack
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    question here. I created a follower that uses dragon fire/frost as a spell. edited in niskope to look right and converted to spell but otherwise vanilla dragon fire/frost. It heals the dragons. looking for the source of this. Checking to see if it might be deadly dragons.
  6. LordAndrak666
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    What I like to do Is start a new character, whose sole purpose is mod testing, and inadverantly as you do the desire to "fix" or "improve" things jumps into my head and thus I go installing mods, using cleans saves and what not.
    I get everything stable using LOOT and confirm that all mods that are installed are ones I want to play with.... then I delete all my saves and start a new character.
    I tend to give a bit of back story to the sacrificial mod testing character and have my true play-through as an associate that has come to Skyrim as a result of his disappearance LOL.

    Many characters have lived and died in the pursuit of a perfect Skyrim...
    Hail the victorious dead!
    Yvonne, Erak, Feya, Haldred, Thorkil
    1. NexusC
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      Are you me??
      You described MY Skyrim-life so exactly that it nearly scared me
  7. deleted17401884
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    i have problem
    when i load my save file
    all mod reload and i see message blablabla thx again for installing Magic reborn
    blabla chose your class Combat magic ect
    warrior knight
    after that i get once second per second black flash screen very annonyme ! i need a fix !
  8. xIMAHunterx
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    So is there no way to get my saved files back? Should I reinstall mods that I got rid of just to get my save back? Please help, I put alot of work in my playthroughs and though I'm not ready to kill myself over this I am as pissed as a troll.
  9. FillipeMattos
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    It's recommended to start a new game with scripts mods ?
  10. chrishpz
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    I'll be the first to admit that I might be missing something here. But after reading this article, in its entirety, I'm under the impression that installing mods is never a good idea. And if one were to install a bunch of mods, the only safe way to get rid of them is to essentially delete such, reinstall the game and start over.
    1. xXPhoeNiXx420
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      no it's saying be smart about how you mod and don't go wild and be an idiot about it. pay attention to comments and the modder's known issues compatibilities and ect. also use LOOT do not use BOSS it is outdated and not as effective