Skyrim Special Edition
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A lightweight mini-modlist that changes the gameplay of Skyrim such that more thought is required in every aspect of play.

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Thoughtful Skyrim is a mini-modlist that changes the gameplay of Skyrim such that more thought is required in every aspect of play. It emphasizes exploration, planning and variety, while discouraging grinding, hoarding and save-scumming. All mods are fully compatible, so you can pick-and-choose from the list at will.

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. 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 value of basic crafted items is reduced, meaning there is no incentive for non-crafting builds to hoard materials and churn out large volumes of low quality items. Instead gold rewards from quests are increased, encouraging non-crafting builds to actually get out there and explore.

It takes the grind out of leveling. Skills are no longer leveled through practice meaning you don't need to grind skills to improve them. Instead, you improve skills through an expanded training system. As a result, any means to make money becomes a valid way to level your character: warrior, explorer, thief, blacksmith, enchanter, farmer: the choice is yours.

It blocks hoarding. Your carrying capacity is reduced, items have volume as well as weight, and the more you carry the slower you move. This discourages the player from bringing back every last piece of junk, and makes actual 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 saps any reward from tough fights as all opponents, no matter how difficult, can eventually be defeated with perseverance. To stop this, the player can no longer save at will. Minimally, saving during combat is disabled, hardcore players can additionally limit saving to sleep.

It's highly modular. All of the mods below are 100% compatible with each other and so can be dropped if you don't like them.

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 few new quests, spells, weapons, armors, 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.


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 like. However, they should be installed in the order listed.

1. Requirements

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

Address library for SKSE plugins
Required for many SKSE plugins.

Many of the mods make use of zEdit patchers.

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.

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 the list.

Scrambled Bugs
Fixes many engine bugs and is required for Master of One. You must turn on "multiple spells" within ScrambledBugs.json.

Attack Speed Framework
Required for Master of One. Attack speed in bugged in vanilla and this fixes it. You don't need this if you are using a different fix for the same problem.

Spell perk item distributor
A framework for distributing spells, perks and items to NPCs at runtime. It cuts down on the need for patchers and is a requirement for Master of One.

PowerOfThree's tweaks
Fixes a bunch of engine issues and is required for Acolyte as well as SPID.

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. Enemies and combat

Know your enemy redux AND Know your enemy redux armors
Gives enemies a wider variety of resistances and weaknesses, contingent both on their race, but also the armor they wear (player armor is affected too). You might want to think about what equipment to bring before you enter a dungeon, and single-skill builds are much less viable so you need backup plans. If you prefer, the is the original version of know your enemy which uses a patcher instead of SPID (don't run the patcher until step 10).

Blade and Blunt
A top quality combat overhaul that improves AI, mechanics, weapon reach and turning speed, all while remaining true to vanilla.

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.

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.

Legacy - A Race Overhaul
A race overhaul that gives all races strengths and weaknesses that impact gameplay and affect the player and NPC alike. The effects are more complex than vanilla/Aetherius, but not as involved as Imperious.

3. Magic

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
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.

Acolyte - Divine Covenants
In vanilla religion and worship is forgettable - bland effects and annoying trips to shrines. This mod gives devotees exotic god-like powers, but only if they can prove their faith by bearing a sizable penalty while their devotion steadily grows. Given the penalties, you should pick a divinity carefully.

Takes the emphasis off potion spamming and instead encourages more careful use of potions. Replaces some useless vanilla effects with better ones. Also makes food worthwhile with long-lasting buffs - ideal for pre-dungeon preparation.

Adjusts enchanting to be more balanced and interesting. Fixes a bunch of oddities, closing get rich quick exploits.

4. Gold and the Economy

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

Sidequests of Skyrim
Lets you complete oddjobs for townsfolk. Handy for extremely low level characters.

Economy overhaul and speechcraft improvements
** Install the lite version **
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.

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.

No Saving in Combat OR Hardcore Saving Overhaul + Campsite
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. No saving in combat is a minimalist way to do this, whereas hardcore saving overhaul is, well... hardcore. To make things a bit easier milder 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.

Master of One
Vanilla perks are just part of general character progression; you always want perks in the skills you use because they are all good. Master of One changes this by adding more niche perks and giving all perks drawbacks as well as benefits. Now you need to actually consider which perks will benefit your build and which should be avoided. The perks also have multiple ranks allowing you to customize the extent to which you invest in a particular trait. The end result is that you can push your character to extreme specialization, facilitating a range of unique builds, but in all cases you will have weaknesses and enemies you will need to prepare for.

Configurable Perks Per Level
Master of One has a lot of perks, and splits them all into multiple ranks. Two perk points per level is recommended to make meaningful progress into the trees.

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.

Pick Your Poison
** Download the Apothecary version **
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 adds series of books that give you all this information.

Scrambled bugs
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

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). 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.

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

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. Exploration and Dungeons

Convenient Carriages
Excessive use of fast travel reduces the sense of exploring a complete world. As such, I recommend limiting fast travel to repeat journeys between familiar places. Where possible I suggest traveling on foot or horse. But Skyrim is big, and walking across the whole map is a bit of a slog, so a bulked up carriage system can make life easier without resorting to fast travel.

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 much more rewarding: you can now stumble across an ancient ruin without the reveal being spoiled by your magic compass.

Hide the compass when not needed. I also recommend turning off enemy health bars, it makes each fight more uncertain and nerve-wracking.

RLO or ELE or Ambience
Although generally considered visual mods, by making dungeons darker lighting mods 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, Ambience (my personal choice), RLO and ELE are all great.

Quick light
Sarker dungeons 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 Quicklight as it makes using a light source riskier than in vanilla.

9. Load order

Follow the order of the above list and you'll be fine, but most of it doesn't matter. The only important things are:
1. Put Ambience/RLO/ELE_SSE.esp at the end of your load order.
2. Make sure all patches are after the mods they are patching.

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:

NPC Stat Rescaler
XP Editor - set all skill gain mults and offsets to 0, leave the skill improve offsets and mults alone.
Curse of the Firmament - patcher is optional, I don't use it
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:

Economy overhaul - I make selling prices a little better for the player at both low and high 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 100 and cost at lvl 100 to 300. This makes for quite fast character progression. For slower progression increase cost at lvl 100 (e.g. to 500).
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 and lockpicks as I don't use a backpack mod.
iHUD - Hide the compass by default, I also turn off enemy healthbars. You think you need them, but they're just a distraction.
Curse of the firmament - Choose yourself a starting stone (or multiple) if you wish

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.

Armor rating redux / Resistances rescaled
Great ideas, but I'm not sure how much you really feel their effect on gameplay.

A wonderful mod, but the high level bosses are just too much for my taste. I love the variety it adds though.

No current location on map
Removed the "thud" sound and "current location" message when you mouseover the player location on the map. Makes the map even less useful, but I find its impact is minimal.

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.

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

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

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

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.

Same as above

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.

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.

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

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


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