Content of the article: "How Skyrim Spawns Levelled Enemies – or – Why you see Level 1s and 50s at Level 10"
I was recently in the market for an Encounter Zones mod, and the more I dug into the subject the less and less sure I was which one I actually wanted. As such, I did a lot of reading on the subject in an attempt to understand how Levelled enemies are spawned in Skyrim and the implications this has on gameplay.
Section 1: An explanation of the various systems involved.
Here, in no particular order, are the things that affect how a levelled enemy is spawned in Skyrim:
1) The player's level
Fairly self explanatory, the level of the player is used throughout the process to determine which enemies to spawn
2) Is this spawn for a levelled enemy?
What's important to understand is that not every enemy in Skyrim is levelled. When creating a zone, the developers can either place NPCs directly, or place a marker for Levelled Enemy. These markers can either be "Easy", "Medium", "Hard", or "Very Hard", and (at least in the Vanilla game) are based on enemy types (e.g. Bandit, BanditBoss, Drauger), etc. It's important to note that there are not 4 lists for each type of spawn, but rather the types of spawn (Easy, Medium, Hard, Very Hard) is used to determine the level of enemy to pull in that list). It is important to note that some enemies are hand placed in Skyrim, and as such, will always be the level the developer set them at. This is one way you'll always be able to find very low level enemies or very high level enemies, the developers decided to place them that way.
3) fLevelledActor variables
These variables are called when a Levelled Actor marker is referenced will loading a zone for the first time (or after the zone resets). There are 4 variables, one for each type of marker, and they determine which NPC from a levelled list to spawn, based on the level of the NPCs.
3a) fLevelledActorEasy (fLAE)
This is set to 0.33 in the vanilla game. For any levelled actor marker flagged as Easy, the game will take the players level, multiply it by the fLAE value, then find the enemy on the levelled list that is either the same level or lower. The lower is very important. This means that if there is a large gap between the lowest level enemy on the list and the next highest, you are likely to see the lowest level enemy for a very long time.
3b) fLevelledActorMedium (fLAM) and fLevelledActorHard (fLAH)
These two work in a similar fashion to fLAE, however rather than looking lower, they look for the closest, up to the maximum level of the encounter zone. fLAM is set to 0.67 and fLAH is set to 1 by default
3c) fLevelledActorVeryHard (fLAVH)
This works in the same way as fLAM and fLAH, however if the enemy that would be spawned by fLAVH is the same as the enemy that would be spawned by fLAH, the next highest enemy on the Levelled List is spawned instead, ignoring any restrictions from the Encounter Zone Maximum Level. fLAVH is set to 1.25 by default.
4) Levelled List
This is a list used by the above variables to select an enemy to place. For example, a list may look like this:
All these entries then have references to item tables and stats that determine the rest of the factors of the enemy, outside of it's level
5) Encounter Zone Minimum Level
Functionally, this determines the lowest player level value that will be used by the fLA variables. This does not determine the lowest level of enemy
6) Encounter Zone Maximum Level
Functionally, this determines the maximum level of enemy that will spawn, with exception to fLAVH
Those are all the things that determine how a LevelledActor Marker will be turned into an enemy by the game. Now let's look at an example.
We enter a zone for the first time at Level 10. It's minimum encounter level is 6, it's maximum is 20. It is only using Levelled Actors, and has 4 Easy spawns, 2 Medium Spawns, 1 Hard Spawn, and 1 Very Hard spawn.
Our levelled list looks as followed:
So now we spawn the enemies difficulty by difficulty.
For the easy spawns, our Player Level of 10 is above the minimum, so that is the value used. 10 x the fLAE of 0.33 gives 3.3. There is no enemy levelled 3.3 on the list, so we look for the next lowest, which is 1. 4 Level 1 enemies are spawned, despite our level being 10 and the minimum encounter zone level being 6.
For the Medium spawns, our level of 10 is multiplied by 0.67, which gives 6.7. There is no enemy at level 6.7, so we pick the next nearest, which is 6.
For the Hard spawn, we just multiply 10 by 1, so the level 10 enemy is spawned.
For the Very Hard spawn, after multiplying the player level by the fLAVH multiplier, we are left with 12.5. Usually, this would pick the level 10 Bandit. However, because this is the same value as the Hard spawn has picked, we instead go up the list and pick the level 50 Bandit.
So we now have a dungeon with 4 Levels 1, 2 Levels 6s, 1 Level 10, and a Level 50.
While this is a very extreme example, it's not difficult to imagine how this leads to commonly seen scenarios in EZ mods. For example, the author massively increased all the fLA multipliers, which with a low level character will likely still result in as bunch of level 1 enemies, some enemies around the minimum level for the zone, and one massively overlevelled enemy. Or a mod adds some high level enemies to the level list but doesn't bridge the gap between their new enemies and the highest vanilla enemies.
One interesting note is that there are only 5 EZs in the Vanilla Game with Encounter Zone Maximum Levels, those being:
Bleak Falls Barrow – 20
Halted Stream Camp – 10
White River Watch – 10
Embershard Mine – 10
The Midden – 30
I hope first of all that this is accurate, and secondly this may help anyone picking mods to increase the difficulty of the game.
- A real endgame zone
- I don’t feel Rogue Agents are done enough justice in this game
- Adding a more adaptive experience for missions.
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