The Elder Scrolls

Modding diary: How I learned to stay calm and eat cabbage soup

Content of the article: "Modding diary: How I learned to stay calm and eat cabbage soup"

I've been playing Skyrim since it came out. My first playthrough was on the 2010 MacBook Pro I used in my undergrad. With a wineskin emulator, the settings on ultra low and an ice pack wrapped in a kitchen towel to cool the CPU, vanilla Skyrim ran beautifully!

A few years back I got around to building a proper gaming rig so I could finally mod the living hell out of Skyrim just like on the You Tubes. I didn't know where to start, but the STEP guide set me on the right path 😌 . As I was chronically underemployed at the time, spending two solid days downloading and installing mods (including at least one manic sleepless night 😵 ) fit nicely into my scheduled leisure time for the week.

I had Frostfall, Hunterborn, Camping, iNeeds, iDontNeeds, live another life, live another longbow normalized 8k bumpmapped high-res salt pile texture mods, script extenders and script extender extenders all set and ready to rock and roll. And honestly, I followed the instructions really closely. Everything was stable and the game very rarely crashed.

The real problem with my 200+ modlist was that I lost interest in actually playing the game. Over the past few years I can't tell you how many characters I've created, put 20 hours of gameplay into and then dropped unceremoniously. The last time I actually bothered to complete one of the major questlines was probably… circa 2012. I've been too busy building campsites and making scrimshaw amulets–to say nothing of the constant fear of freezing or starving to death.

And then the other day, I decided to tweak my load order a bit, change to a different world map mod, get rid of some mods that were making the game–shall we say less playable. Instant disaster. Removing 2 or 3 mods made the world map disappear forever and turned Whiterun into a transparent fog. I spent hours trying to put the pieces back together before I finally opted for the nuclear solution–total destruction of my install, mod folders and save games.

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Let me be perfectly clear–this is not a cry for help. I probably did something stupid and got my just desserts. I probably also could have fixed it without deleting everything and reinstalling from scratch. But I didn't want to.

For the first time in years, I've started a Skyrim playthrough that I'm actually going to finish. I'm running SSE vanilla with the Creation Club survival mode, backpacks and camping. And that's it.

Hold up though before you all dogpile on me with the "I could never go back to…" and the "Creation Club is pure evil garbage"–I agree with all of you and you're all awesome.

I went back to vanilla bitch mode with a purpose. I want to discover what I actually want to change about the game, what will make it genuinely more fun and interesting to play. And what's perfectly fine out of the box, rather than just follow some 270-step modlist indiscriminately.

Here are my impressions so far :


Skyrim has bugs. I would like to fix these again after this playthrough.


This is one area that is pretty harmless to mod in terms of gameplay experience–making the game pretty with high-res textures, weather effects, etc is definitely something I will do again after this playthrough.

"Game balance" and difficulty:

I'm now reluctant to put in mods to make the game more difficult or change core mechanics. I don't really play Skyrim for it's brilliant combat "system"–I'm more of a roleplayer. Challenge-based mods are probably a big part of why I abandoned so many playthroughs, as I got tired of save-scumming my way through a fight with a randomly generated Bandit Chief. I'm remarkably happy with the vanilla combat and levelling mechanics on Adept (plus survival mode–but more on that later).

Crafting, alchemy and smithing

It's really refreshing to go to merchants and not find that their inventories are full of a million clutter items used for specific immersive crafting mods that I can't even remember which one is for what. Those mods are brilliant and awesome and really cool, but for me, they end up just being one more minigame within the minigame within the minigame that is Skyrim.

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Armour and weapons mods

I'd like the existing armour and weapons to look less cartoony and more usable in the rather boreal climate of Skyrim–see Graphics. I'd also like to fill a few gaps in the existing sets just to round things off. Other than that, restricting myself to vanilla weapons has worked wonders for my inventory management.

Immersion mods

How much immersion is too much immersion? The answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind. Let me start though, with the CC Survival Mode. For the sake of this exercise I'm willing to put aside my misgivings about Bethesda co-opting modders' hard work and selling mods to their customers. I gotta admit that Survival Mode is an excellent, lightweight, simple, balanced immersion mod that adds depth and complexity to the game without tempting me to dive down a virtual alternate life rabbit hole. Breaking water skins and rotting mudcrab legs that make you sick were a wicked and clever addition to the game, but not one that I want to reintroduce into my Skyrim diet. CC Survival Mode makes food a useful item, limits carry capacity, and forces you to get a good night's rest every day so, which is ideal. It doesn't slow the pace of the game to the point where it becomes a deer hunting simulator. To be clear, Frostfall is hands down one of the best mods ever made for any game–credit where credit is due. What do I miss from it? Freezing to death in water. It always seemed like a peaceful way to go–better than bleeding out after a wolf attack. If I do reinstall Frostball, I'll tune it to resemble the CC version as much as possible.


Fuck dragons. Dragons are lame. I want less dragons.

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That's it for me. I'm going to get back to my low-fat vanilla Skybaby run for now and will start making my next modlist on the side. But this time, more carefully, more thoughtful, and with more love. I'm hoping to put together a Let's Roleplay on my YT channel down the line and this has been a useful process to that end (I know there are six billion other series out there, but it's my party and I'll cry if I want to).

Let me know what you think in this thread. Mod suggestions are always welcome, but I'll manage either way. I'm particularly interested in hearing from the bots. What would we ever do without those handy links to troubleshooting pages?


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