Skyrim Special Edition
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About this mod

A curated mini-modlist and unifying patch that changes the gameplay of Skyrim such that more thought is required in every aspect of play.

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Introduction

Thoughtful Skyrim is a curated mini-modlist with unifying patches that changes the gameplay of Skyrim such that more thought is required in every aspect of play. Although enemies are more challenging than in vanilla, Thoughtful Skyrim keeps the emphasis on exploration, adding more importance to planning ahead.



What it does

The following is a high level summary, for full details you should read the full mod-list below.

It emphasizes exploration. All symbols are removed from the compass and the player location is removed from the map. This means you actually need to look at your surrounding to figure out where you are. To aid you there are an increased number of road signs, but after that its up to you - clairvoyance is now actually very useful!

It makes combat more varied. You can’t enter every fight and swing your weapon of choice in a mindless fashion, instead you need to think about what enemy you are up against and prepare accordingly. Enemies now have a variety of resistances that you need to bear in mind, as well as a wider variety of attacks you will need to be prepared for. Your strategy will include what weapons or spells you use, what armor you wear and what potions to bring.

It takes the grind out of the economy. The economy is rebalanced to discourage non-crafting builds from hoarding materials and churning out large volumes of low quality items. The value of basic crafted items is reduced, while gold rewards from quests are increased. This encourages non-crafting builds to actually get out there and play the game. Meanwhile, new perks allow crafting specialists to reap the rewards.

It takes the grind out of leveling. You now have total freedom to level which skills you want, even if you rarely use them, because skills are no longer leveled through practice. Instead skill gain now occurs exclusively through an expanded training system: you earn money by completing quests and selling loot or crafted items, and use your earnings to pay trainers to teach you. No need to make 100 hide helmets to level smithing, just get out there and play the game.

It blocks hoarding. Your carrying capacity is reduced and the more you carry the slower you move. This discourages the player from bringing back every last piece of junk, and instead makes treasure like gold and jewelry really valuable. Craft-based builds will want to make dedicated trips for a specific ingredient (supported by in-game guides) and on the rest of their travels they can just enjoy the scenery.

It mildly delevels the world. You can no longer charge into any dungeon without worrying about what lies ahead: the world is now deleveled and some areas are off limits to low level characters. That said, enemy hp doesn’t grow as fast with enemy level as it did in vanilla, so a well prepared player may be able to take on enemies well above their level. Nonetheless, for low level characters a variety of straightforward quests are offered by townsfolk to help you get started.

It stops save scumming. The ability to quicksave and quickload is a perennial problem in Skyrim that saps any reward from achievements as all opponents, no matter how difficult, can eventually be defeated with perseverance. To stop this, the player can no longer save at will, instead they must sleep or consume a craftable/buyable elixir. To make this a little easier, portable tents let the player create home bases in suitable locations.

It's highly modular. Most of the mods below are 100% compatible with all other mods in the list and so can be skipped over if you don't like them. If you install the modlist compatibility patch a handful become hard requirements, while a few others become partially bundled in the patch itself, and these are indicated via '' and ' symbols in the modlist below.



What it doesn’t do

It doesn’t add needs or survival gameplay.
Many survival elements get in the way of exploration. Thoughtful Skyrim wants players to experience everything Skyrim has to offer, including swimming in the ocean, exploring at night, and heading out into a snowstorm.

It doesn’t require keyboard wizardry. Thoughtful Skyrim does not make the game a technical challenge like dark souls, or competitive starcraft. Most of the difficulty added by the mod list can be overcome by planning ahead appropriately, and not with quick reactions. In this way, Thoughtful Skyrim plays to Skyrim’s strengths - open world exploration - instead of its weaknesses - somewhat clunky combat.

It doesn’t accelerate gameplay. If anything, Thoughtful Skyrim slows the game down: you will spend more time perusing, planning, preparing and plodding. Some dungeons might require preparatory trips to collect certain ingredients and you may make regular trips to a homebase to store items you can’t carry all at once.

It doesn’t add new content. Skyrim already has a huge amount of content and is not lacking in breadth. Instead its primary issues are a lack of depth and a lack of balance. As such Thoughtful Skyrim adds almost no new spells, weapons, armors, perks, enemies, or ingredients. Users are welcome to add their own, but I encourage at least one run through without doing so.

It doesn’t improve visuals. I certainly use it alongside graphical enhancements, but this is a separate issue from gameplay and so I leave it up to users to choose their own way.

It doesn't fix every bug in vanilla. The requirements section does include some patches, but this is only because later mods require them. Bug fixes that do not specifically pertain to other mods in this list are not included. To stabilize your game I suggest browsing the patch masterlist here.



Mods

The mod list starts here. Some mods include additional install instructions or patches which are flagged by double asterisks.

Note that all mods are optional so you are safe to pick-and-choose as many as you fancy, just make sure to include any appropriate patches in step 9.



1. Requirements

SKSE
Many of the mods rely on the new functionality added by SKSE.

zEdit
Many of the mods make use of zEdit patchers.

USSEP
Many of the mods rely on this as a master. Even if you’re not using this mod list as a guide, you probably want this anyway.

SkyUI
Needed as many of the mods in Thoughtful Skyrim have MCMs.

SSE engine fixes
Generally recommended anyway for stability reasons, but it specifically fixes an issue with spell tomes that can cause CTDs with one of the mods in list.

MO2, not MO
We'll need to run some zEdit patchers, and zEdit is a 64bit program so it cannot be launched by MO1. Any other mod manager (or manual install) is fine.

Reminder: This is not a patch/stability mod list. Patches are only included if they specifically relate to other mods in the list. For a more comprehensive list of patches and bug fixes see here.


2. Exploration and Dungeons


Convenient Carriages
Skyrim is big, and walking across the whole map is a bit of a slog, so we’ll bulk up the carriage system. Note that this makes gold more meaningful as you now have something to spend it on that you can’t get for free. More on gold later. I suggest leaving fast travel intact because sometimes quests make it very desirable to quickly hop between distant places, but where possible I encourage players to go by cart or on foot.

Point the way
This mod helps you keep on track without opening your map every 20 seconds (your map isn’t as magically useful as before either).

Undiscovered means Unknown - extreme compass
** Install the extreme compass edition (new), I suggest turning off undiscovered location icons entirely, as well as enemy indicators **
Your compass no longer magically tells you when locations are nearby, this encourages you to look at the world and you’ll start noticing all the small cues that guide the player - a dirt track, or little cairns, or some trampled snow. Finding locations is a little more difficult, but also more rewarding: it’s now actually a pleasant surprise when you stumble across an ancient ruin without the reveal being spoiled by your magic compass. Once you have discovered a location, its marker is added to your map, but even then it won’t appear on your compass, so you’ll need to think about where you are going and pay attention to the environment as you travel.

No current location on Map
** This mod is currently only on LE, but I have been using it on SE for a long time with no issue, as have many others **
** You do not want the interface folder, so delete this folder after install (MO2) or just don't install it (other mod managers) **

Undiscovered means unknown will remove the player marker from the map, but it doesn’t remove the pop-up text saying “Current location” or the “thud” sound as your mouse rolls over your location. This mod fixes that. Now you can no longer open the map and see locations relative to the player position, instead you have to use bridges, waterfalls, mountains and other landmarks to find your way. You’ll get lost sometimes, but that’s what makes getting to your final location more rewarding.

iHud
Hide the compass when not needed

ELE
Although generally considered a visual mod, ELE is in this list because by making dungeons darker it forces you to make an important decision - stumble around in the dark, or use a light source and risk giving your location away. Vanilla dungeons are too bright to force this choice, torches are more for RP purposes than actual need, and so ELE forces the issue.

Quick light
The darker dungeons created by ELE require a light source, and vanilla Skyrim includes two options: torches or light spells. But these are a bit boring and frustrating: torches cannot be held while using 2H weapons or bows, so these characters have to fight in the dark, while magelight needs constantly recasting and cannot be dispelled. Quicklight solves this by giving you a toggleable lantern (hold E to turn on/off) that leaves your hands free and doesn’t need regularly topping up. This gets rid of the above frustrations, while leaving the strategic decision of whether or not to illuminate yourself in place.

Realistic AI Detection
In vanilla, your ability to sneak is hugely affected by your sneak skill, to the extent that a high level sneak character is borderline invisible. Realistic AI detection makes raw skill matter less, but lighting, movement and noise matter more, so placing more emphasis on what you do and when you do it, than who you are. It also plays nicely with ELE+Quicklight as it makes using a light source riskier than in vanilla.



3. Enemies and combat

Mortal enemies
In vanilla enemies can turn very quickly, even when attacking. Mortal Enemies makes enemies turn at more realistic speeds, making combat more engaging and less irritating, it also enables dodging without a dedicated dodge mod (most of which I think are OP).

Speed and Reach Fixes
** Do not run patchers until step 10 **
In vanilla weapons have bizarrely long reaches that makes dodging very hard. This is a zEdit patcher that makes a weapons reach actually match its mesh. I suggest using the reach fixes only and leaving speed fixes turned off.

Know your enemy
** Do not run patchers until step 10 **
Gives enemies a wider variety of resistances and weaknesses, contingent both on their race, but also the armor they wear. You might want to think about what equipment to bring before you enter a dungeon, and single-skill builds are much less viable.

SRCEO
Gives enemies a wider variety of offenses - some use shouts, others use poison, and so on. Again, this places more emphasis on preparation in advance.

Mysticism
** If using Vokrii, download the patch **
Adds many new spells seamlessly into the game. They are very well balanced and give the play more options without making them overpowered. It also fixes issues with many vanilla spells, such as wards. 

Challenging Spell Learning
** Do not run patchers until step 10 **
In vanilla anyone can learn any spell provided they have the tome. This mod turns spell learning into a trial of your magical abilities. Now non-magical characters will struggle to learn any but the most basic spells and so won’t have a fall back arsenal of spells if they get into trouble. Meanwhile high level spells require investment, creating more pronounced differences between different magical builds.

NPC Stat Rescaler
** Do not run patchers until step 10 **
Vanilla enemies have enormous hp reserves, particularly at high levels, and they also have grotesque magicka regen speeds that mean you can never wear them down. The NPC Stat rescaler changes this, giving enemies more realistic health pools and magicka regen rates. This makes combat more about skill and strategy, and less of a war of attrition.

Resistances Rescaled
The vanilla armor formula for how armor rating is turned into damage reduction is weird: low tier armors (including most mage armors) are almost useless, armor effectiveness grows quickly in the mid-game though, but suddenly stops when you hit the cap, meaning that high tier armor actually has no benefit over mid-tier armor. Resistances rescaled sorts this out, making every improvement in armor count, and it even does the same for magic resistances too.

Curse of the Firmament
** Patcher is optional, if you want to use it do not run it until step 10 **
A combat-oriented standing stones overhaul that gives all stones positives and negatives. Makes choosing a blessing much more risky. The patcher will distribute the blessings to NPCs too.

Violens
This mod does many things, but all we want it for is to turn off kill moves against the player. This is because kill moves are calculated before things like armor are taken into account and so the player can get insta-killed by high level enemies.



4. Gold and the Economy

Missives
Adds a message board with basic quests to each town. Very helpful to get low level characters started.

Economy overhaul and speechcraft improvements
** Install the complete version, get the patches for Missives and Vokrii if you are using them **
A total economy overhaul with an adjusted speech perk tree. Makes selling junk worthless and crafted items are hard to sell unless you are a good craftsman. Overall it makes it harder to get rich quick and encourages questing over spamming and hoarding.

Alchemy, potions and food adjustments
Takes the emphasis off potion spamming and instead encourages more careful use of potions. Also makes food worthwhile with long-lasting buffs - ideal for pre-dungeon preparation.

Enchanting adjustments and price bug fix
Fixes a bunch of oddities with enchanting and enchantments, closing get rich quick exploits.



5. Leveling and skills

Trainers galore
A large-scale expansion of the training system. Most characters can train you in several skills, if you have the gold. Cost increases with your level and the quality of the trainer, but is reduced if you become friends. You no longer need to grind skills to level them, and because of the economy changes, crafting potions/armor is only worthwhile if you plan to use them or if you’re a specialist craftsman. Trainers galore also places a constant pressure on your finances, as anything you buy (spell tomes, player homes etc) slows down your skill growth.

XP Editor
** Do not run patchers until step 10 **
Let’s you turn off leveling of skills through practice. Works in conjunction with Trainers Galore to permit “training only” runs.

Hardcore Saving Overhaul
Stops save scumming and so forces you to ask yourself “do I really want to risk this?” Now you have a real incentive to go into dungeons well prepared and to stay away from high level areas until you are ready.

Campsite
Hardcore saving overhaul can be a little, well... hardcore. To make things a bit easier campsite lets the player bring a placeable tent where they can sleep and save, as well as cook food. I pitch it outside dungeons before delving in, occasionally coming back up to rest and re-save.

Vokrii
** If you are using them, get patches for harvest overhaul and enchanting adjustments here **
The best perk overhaul I've played (though I haven't yet tried Adamant) and it fits seamlessly into the vanilla game, avoiding new mechanics or overpowering builds while still opening up new play styles and correcting issues with vanilla perks.



6. Hoarding

RAB Inventory Limits
Limits your capacity by volume as opposed to weight. Stops item hoarding, particularly for light items like ingredients, potions, scrolls, arrows, lockpicks and so on, as even with a lowered carry weight you can carry hundred of these. Feel free to adjust things in the MCM. The key is setting the weight of all worn armor (but not weapons) to 0.

Cobb Encumbrance
With RAB inventory limits you will typically never hit your weight capacity anyway, but Cobb Encumberance changes your movement speed according to how close you are to your weight limit. This way, investing in stamina, and so increasing your carry weight, has the nice effect of increasing your movement speed.

Harvest overhaul Redone
** Don't get the creatures module, creatures are handled by SRLEZ **
Thoughtful Skyrim wants to stop players from harvesting every ingredient in a mindless fashion, and to instead make dedicated trips for specific ingredients they know they need. However players often need lots of an ingredient, and so to make life easier once you’ve found what you’re looking for, harvest overhaul adds multiple ingredients to each plant/animal.

Pick Your Poison
** Do not run patchers until step 10 **
The vanilla alchemy interface gives you no clues about where you need to go for specific ingredients, or what they look like, or what ingredients are useful for certain effects. This makes strategic foraging an impossibility. Pick Your Poison gives you a bunch of tomes that give you all this information.

Wiseman's flora fixes
In vanilla, most plants never respawn, meaning the player will exhaust regions and have to move on. This is frustrating, because once the player has found a great spot for a particular ingredient, it’s eventually emptied and the player has to look elsewhere. This fix lets plants respawn slowly (among many other things), meaning with a handful of good foraging spots and player can keep well stocked.



7. Deleveling the world

SRLEZ
De-levels loot and enemies, such that player level does not affect which enemies are encountered or what loot you get for defeating them. Now you’ll need to work and level up before thinking about entering a high level dungeon (particularly because you can’t save scum your way though thanks to hardcore saving overhaul). This draws out the early game where you’re a “nobody”, but makes the mid and later game more rewarding. Nonetheless, thanks to the NPC stat rescaler, high level enemies aren’t total sponges, so with good preparation a low-level player may be able to make their way through a challenging dungeon.

MEZF
There’s a bug in vanilla that means encounter zones don’t properly effect dungeon exteriors, this fixes it.

Display enemy level
This is, in part, a convenience mod to avoid you accidentally getting into fights you have no hope of winning. It also helps you figure out whether the enemy you are facing has lots of hp, or if your attacks are being resisted. It’s simple and unobtrusive too.

Enemy Releveler
** Do not run patchers until step 10 **
Even when encounter zones are deleveled, the NPCs themselves have weirdly wide level ranges that just confuses the experience of fighting them. The releveler fixes this making different enemy types much more distinct.



8. Patches

I have provided additional patches for conflicts not already resolved above. They are all ESLified and bundled in a single download. Activate all that apply to your load order:

Vokrii AND Mysticism AND Enchanting Adjustments; a three-way patch that merges a single conflict over the slow magic effect.
SRCEO AND Mortal Enemies; merges conflicts between Mortal Enemies and SRCEO over many race records.
Wiseman's flora fixes AND Harvest Overhaul; merges the numerous conflicts between harvest overhaul and wiseman's flora fixes.



9. Load order

1. Load AlchemyAdjustments.esp after EconomyOverhaulandSpeechcraftImprovements.esp.
2. Put MissingEZs_AllExteriors, Skyrim Revamped.esp and ELE_SSE.esp at the end of your load order in that order.
3. Make sure all patches are after the mods they are patching.
4. Aside from the above, load order doesn't matter.



10. zEdit patchers

See the individual mod pages for instruction on installing the patchers in zEdit.

The order in which you run the patches does not matter, just ensure the esps are in the same order as which you ran the patchers. Patchers can be configured in zEdit, but unless otherwise specified I suggest using the default settings. You will want the following patches:

Know Your Enemy
Know Your Armor - I keep armor descriptions on, but feel free to turn it off.
Challenging Spell Learning
NPC Stat Rescaler
XP Editor - set all skill gain mults and offsets to 0, leave the skill improve offsets and mults alone.
Pick Your Poison - set mode to “AA”, and long titles to “yes”
Curse of the Firmament - patcher is optional, I don't use it
Speed and reach fixes
Enemy releveler



11. MCM Configuration

Many of the mods in this list include an MCM for additional configuration. Much of this is up to the user, but here are some suggestions from me:

Violens - turn off kill moves against the player
Economy overhaul - I make selling prices a little better for the play at low skill levels, otherwise I find money just too hard to come by.
Trainers Galore - Default costs are just too punishing with Economy overhaul and SRLEZ. I set cost at lvl 1 to 0 and cost at lvl 100 to 600.
RAB Inventory limits - I strongly suggest setting the volume of worn armor and clothing to 0. That aside I also give myself a little more space for potions.



Notable exclusions

The following are mods that I think are good, but nonetheless didn't make it into this list for one reason or another. You can add them anyway if you want, but bear in mind they will change the overall experience (in what I think is a negative way) and may introduce incompatibilities.

Wearable lanterns
Similar to quicklight, but the necessity to craft a lantern ends up being a hassle. I want players to choose whether or not to illuminate themselves, not struggle with finding a lamp in the first place.

Summermyst
While the new enchantments add variety, some of them I find are overpowered and imbalance the game.

Apocalypse
Same as above: loads of the spells are great, but I find some of them are overpowered. Better keep away from temptation.

Imperious
I want you to focus on exploration, not to have to manage the requirements of being a Nord.

Frostfall
It encourages planning ahead, but places considerable burdens on where you can/cannot go and often requires you to carry lots of gear. In many ways it belongs in the list, but I put exploration above immersion in this case.

Hypothermia
Same as above

Campfire
Without Frostfall the need for this is reduced, but you can always add it anyway if you want. Carrying a portable sleep roll will make hardcore saving overhaul considerably easier though.

Hunterborn
Adds more depth to hunting, but ends up being a bit much in my opinion.

Vitality mode
I’m yet to find a needs mod that doesn’t get in the way of gameplay. Vitality mode is probably the closest I’ve found, but I still think it is too much hassle to be fun.

Tomebound
A vanilla+ spell pack, but I still think it strays too far and the loss of balance isn't worth the additional variety.

Luminosity
Similar to ELE, but I think it doesn't make things dark enough to force the player to use light sources.



Acknowledgements

Thanks to the authors of all the mods on this list. Thanks to everyone who helped me make my own mods.