New To Skyrim? "Where To Go For Reliable Information Written For New Players" by Rogdonlp

 
NEW TO SKYRIM?

"WHERE TO GO FOR RELIABLE INFORMATION WRITTEN FOR NEW PLAYERS" by Rogdonlp


     Skyrim is a game that can provide thousands of hours of gameplay.  With the tens of thousands of mods available you can create a Skyrim that is tailored to your own tastes.  However, for a person venturing into Skyrim for the first time it can be somewhat intimidating.  Skyrim has its own jargon and abbreviations that can perplex and frustrate a newcomer.  I remember when I first started playing Skyrim I kept a spreadsheet of all of the abbreviations that I encountered.  As I learned what the abbreviations stood for I dutifully log it into my spreadsheet.  Some of the abbreviations I never was able to learn what they stood for.  I also found cases of several different abbreviations being used for the same mod.  Yes, over time you will learn all these things.  However, while you are absorbing everything you can become very frustrated.
     Besides the abbreviations there are mod managers, ENB, body types such as CBBE, UUNP, Dream Girl, and UNPCM, lots of different utilities that do many different but necessary things, load order, layering textures, etc.  There are lots of places on the web and YouTube that offer advice for Skyrim modders.  However, which websites are up-to-date?  Things change fast in Skyrim modding.  Which websites are reliable?  Just because a person puts up a YouTube video does not make that person an expert.  Below are some of the things that I have learned during my 3,000+ hours playing Skyrim Legendary Edition and the hundreds of hours I have spent playing Morrowind, Oblivion, Skyrim Special Edition, Fallout 3, Fallout New Vegas, Tale of Two Wastelands, and Morroblivion.  The hours I have spent playing does not make me an expert.  However, I do eventually learn from my mistakes and I probably have committed 99.9% of all the modding mistakes that are possible in Skyrim.

Where to Start
     The oldest reliable source of information on modding Skyrim is the Skyrim Total Enhancement Project, STEP for short.  STEP Guide 2.10.0  STEP was started in 2011 shortly after Skyrim was released.  STEP is run by unpaid volunteers who have devoted thousands of hours to creating a website where you can learn the basics of modding Skyrim.  There have been many versions of the STEP Guide over the years.  Each mod that is included in the guide has been proposed by the Skyrim community, has been tested to see that the mod adds something useful to the game, that the mod is better than the mod it replaces in the guide, and the mod is totally compatible with the all of other mods in the guide.  Take some time right now and read through the 2.10.0 STEP Guide.  Because the Guide is so comprehensive it should take you well over an hour to read the Guide and all of the supplemental pages that are linked to the Guide.

     Having read through the Guide you now have an idea as to what is necessary in order to have a game that is stable.  As the Guide mentions, installing the mods and tools per the Guide will give you a stable base onto which you can add your own mods.  If the mods you add totally break your game you can always delete your mods and make a new game from the STEP mods.  As your modding skills increase there are other more complex mod builds on the STEP website that will help you learn additional modding skills.  Take a look at  Neovalen's Skyrim Revisited - Legendary Edition  .  Once you have created and used that build for a while you can move onto this guide   Dark mathias' SRLE Extended: Legacy of The Dragonborn  which will teach you some higher level skills.  Once you have created and used Dark Mathias’ guide you can move on to this SSE STEP Guide   Darklady Lexy's: Legacy of the Dragonborn Special Edition  . 

Common Mistakes
Not Testing After Installing Each Section of the Guide
     The STEP Guide tells you that when you have finished installing a section of the Guide that you should start the game and spend a few minutes running around to see if everything is working correctly.  It is always a temptation to install all of the mods and then do the testing.  This is fine if you never make mistakes.  However, if you are a fallible mortal it will save you much time if you test after each section is installed.  Having installed the over 200 STEP mods and then having the game crash at the loading screen menu presents the problem of where to look for the mod(s) that are causing the problem(s).  If you have just installed a section that has 20 mods you only have 20 mods to test as opposed to over 200.  The difficulties in finding the mod(s) causing the problem(s) goes up exponentially with the number of untested mods.

Not Following Directions
     Again, it is human nature to want to forge ahead as rapidly as possible so that you can start playing the game.  Installing the mod correctly the first time will mean you don’t have to spend time locating the problem mod that is crashing your game.  The supplementary pages that are linked to the guide are there for a reason.  Read them and follow the instructions.

Not Checking your Work
     Even if you have read all of the directions including the supplemental pages, going back and rechecking your work before you start the in-game testing will save you time in the end.

I know the above three items are common sense and everybody follows them.  Wrong.  These three items are the most common mistakes because so many people are in such a hurry that they do not follow the above.  Prompted by the pain of having to locate misbehaving mods, people will learn to avoid these three common mistakes just as I had to learn.

Useful YouTube Videos
     Many people seem to learn more quickly by both reading the instructions and then watching how the task is performed.  There are thousands of Skyrim tutorial videos on YouTube.  The STEP Guide mentions several videos that you should watch.  However, sometimes Skyrim changes faster that the STEP Guide gets updated.  The current STEP Guide recommends using Mod Organizer as your mod manager.  The current STEP Guide for SSE   STEP Guide SSE      recommends using Mod Organizer 2.  The next guide for Skyrim LE will almost certainly recommend Mod Organizer 2 since it has fewer bugs, more features, and has an active development team.  The most current YouTube guide on installing and using MO2 is the five-part series by Gamerpoets  Installing Mod Organizer 2  Part 1 of 5  .

     The sources of YouTube tutorials on modding that I would recommend would be from Gopher, Dirty Weasel Productions, and Gamerpoets.  However, make sure you are getting the most up-to-date version of the tutorial.  Start looking in the tutorials created in 2018 first and then go back to the 2017 tutorials.  Except for specialized topics any tutorial created prior to 2017 is probably outdated.

Adding Your Own Mods to the STEP Base
     One of the joys of playing Skyrim is trying out new mods.  According to Nexus, I have installed over 2,000 different mods for Skyrim.  It took me a while to learn this, but you don’t suddenly add 50 new mods to your build.  You have to add them gradually - only 1 or 2 at a time.  You could add 20 mods at a time when installing the STEP guide.  However, the Step Guide mods were tested for stability and compatibility with the other STEP Guide mods.  When you add your own mods, you are adding mods which may or may not be stable and which may or may not be compatible with your other mods.  Unless you prefer spending time looking for the problem mod(s) in your load order rather than playing the game, be cautious and add the mods slowly.

     Another thing to remember is that there is no surer way to break your game than removing mods that contain scripts.  Scripts embed certain information into your Saved Game as you play the game.  Deleting a mod that contains scripts deletes the mod but does not delete the information that the mod put into your Saved Game.  This results in your Saved Game containing orphaned information known as unattached instances and undefined elements.  These two orphan items cause crashes.  Skyrim is going along dutifully executing your scripts when suddenly it encounters information that it does not know how to handle because the mod that generated the information is no longer in the load order.  Crash.  It is possible that you could have unattached instances and undefined elements in your Saved Game and the game will play without problems.  However, the odds of that, in my experience, are low.  You can use a utility like Fallrim Tools  Fallrim Tools  to remove the unattached instances and undefined elements from your Saved Game.  That may work, but the odds are that it won’t unless the deleted mod only used a few simple scripts.  While you can normally delete mods that contain only meshes, textures, and an .esp file, sometimes you will still end up with a broken game.  Why?  It is a curse of Skyrim’s Gamebryo engine or else you have angered one of the Divines.

     If you are going to delete a mod, make a save and note the Saved Game number so that you can reload this save in case your mod deletion breaks your game.  Create a second Saved Game and exit the game.  Remove the mod from your load order.  Restart the game.  Two things can happen.  In the first case, the game will crash at the loading screen or soon after entering the game.  If you cannot make a Saved Game before leaving the game involuntarily you cannot delete the mod.  Reinstall the mod and load the Saved Game whose number you had noted before you started the uninstall. The game should play the way it did before unless you really did anger the Divines or Sheogorath is just having a little fun with you.

     In the second case, the game loads without crashing.  Immediately save the game and exit to the desktop.  Use a cleaning utility like Fallrim on your latest Saved Game and restart the game with the cleaned Saved Game file.  If the game does not crash in the first minute or two you might be OK.  If the game crashes using the cleaned Saved Game file, you now know that you should not delete that mod.  As in case one, reinstall the mod and load the Saved Game whose number you had noted before you started the uninstall. 

     There are advanced techniques that might allow you to delete the mod, but they are beyond the scope of this article.
    
     I periodically run Fallrim on my latest Saved Game even if I have not deleted any mods.  Occasionally unattached instances and undefined elements are found.  I don’t how these originated, but I do delete them to lower the chance of the game crashing.

Other Matters
     Sometimes you will start your game and load your latest Saved Game and the game crashes at the load screen menu.  If you try to reload this Saved Game again and it again crashes try reloading an earlier save.  Usually the earlier save will load.  Once that earlier save has loaded, try reloading the latest save from within the game.  The latest save should now load.  Sometimes though, you have to go back a lot of saves to get this method to work.  In one instance I had to go back 42 saves and then slowly progress from save 42, to loading save 37, to loading save 32, ... until I finally got my latest save to load.  I now manually save my game more frequently. 

     The conventional wisdom is that you should always use manual saves because if the computer makes an auto save or you make a quick save it is possible that the save will become corrupted.  The corruption of the auto and quick save files is a highly debated subject.  I looked at the Skyrim reputation of the people saying not to use auto and quick saves versus the ones who say auto and quick saves work just fine.  I opted for only doing manual saves.  I also keep at least the last 100 Saved Games in my Saved Game folder.  I do not overwrite Saved Games.  I always create a new save.  As mentioned in the paragraph above, sometimes you have to use a much older saved game to recover from difficulties.

     If you are having to go through your mods looking for the mod that is causing your crashes you can test each mod one by one.  However, there is a faster method.  Let us assume you need to test the last 20 mods that you added.  (I won’t ask why you are loading 20 new mods at a time.) Deactivate mods 11 through 20 and run the game.  If there is no crash, then you know the mod causing the problem is in the 11 through 20 mods and not in the 1 through 10 mods that you just tested.  To find the problem mod, activate only mods 11 through 15 and run the game.  If the game crashes then you know the problem mod is in the group of 11 through 15.  Now deactivate mods 14 and 15 and start the game.  If your game crashes then you know that the problem mod is 11, 12, or 13.  Deactivate mod 13 and run the game.  If it does not crash then you know mod 13 is the problem mod.  If the game still crashes after deactivating 13, then deactivate mod 12 and restart the game.  If the game does not crash, then mod 12 is the problem mod.  If the game crashes, then you know mod 11 is the problem mod.  Note that using this method required only five tests as opposed to having to test each individual mod.  However, it is possible that you have more than one misbehaving mod in your group of 20.  Trust me, it does happen.  The worst case that I can remember having was four misbehaving mods out of ten newly added mods.  I may need to be beaten over the head with a club multiple times, but I do eventually learn – only add one or two mods at a time.

Enjoy Skyrim


Regards

Rogdonlp

Comments

  1. Replies
    1. Thank you for your kind words.

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  2. Not bad!

    STEP can be very confusing to new people, though. I don't use it myself, but I do consider the mods it lists when I build a profile, and I always reference it for its recommendations on INI settings. I do use Bethini, but STEP still has some very helpful discussion.

    My preference is for https://www.reddit.com/r/skyrimmods/wiki/begin2 because it's very simple and can help out people who do not want a great deal of mods. https://forums.nexusmods.com/index.php?/topic/753253-only-you-can-prevent-forest-fires/ (scroll to the section on load order) is a fantastic help for learning how to set up load order, particularly if you are setting up environmental/flora mods or adult mods.

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    1. Thank you for the two links. Both contain good information that new modders should read. However, if they were anything like me when they start out, they just want to throw some mods together and begin playing - reading can come later (probably after a few crashes). The STEP Guide, for me, contained the basic information that I needed to start playing Skyrim. After playing a number of hours, and crashing, it was then easier for me to understand what other resources, such as your two excellent articles, were saying. Obviously, different strokes for different folks. Thanks again for the links.

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