Updated: Mar 25, 2019
PLEASE NOTE: This post is one of the few exceptions to the rule on my blog in that it will be updated regularly as I find better mods that do the same thing (or more) and use less resources on my computer. It is my eventual aim to find a stable, immersive and beautiful looking set up that will still run on my laptop with as little lag or stutter as possible. My reasons for this are twofold -- first, it means I can take my game anywhere and not be limited to a desktop. Secondly, it means that anyone can play on a budget machine and still get the maximum impact with whatever set-up I finally settle on.
I will admit I run Oldrim. There’s a valid reason for this—I don’t own a gaming rig. I own a laptop that I bought for work and writing so the first thought wasn’t gaming. Portability and decent enough power to run some of my favourites in the mid-range but nothing fancier than that.
Because let’s face it… unless you’re spending a few grand on a laptop a gaming laptop is kind of bulky to carry around.
As awesome as it would look it would be too heavy and take up too much room.
And you can’t hide them in the regular leather briefcase like you can a 15in business laptop.
My eventual plan was to later buy a gaming desktop, but, alas, I have never quite managed to save up enough money to get one and I don’t have the space for one anyway.
So, needless to say, these mods are for the older Skyrim because my laptop stutters badly on the SE Skyrim and it won’t even come close to running the VR Skyrim. As we well know, I love to game but with those limitations it means I only get to try new games on someone else’s computer to review games and my list of regulars are limited indeed.
Even if I have the hard drive space, my RAM and video card won’t cut it.
So, with that in mind if I can get these to work reliably on my rig then they should really, really run on anyone’s. Especially if you have a desktop. I mean, a desktop you can pick up for $300 from Staples would probably blow my rig right out of the water.
Keep in mind these mods are for IMMERSION, which means it brings the game both into line with the lore and with certain tweaks that make how food works (and is crafted) as well as other life related things more realistic if it were in a fantasy setting. It makes it more like a survival game in a fantasy setting than a hack and slash dungeon crawler. I don’t have very many mods tweaking or adding realistic graphics because, let’s face it, my rig wouldn’t run them anyway. Those I have mentioned tend to streamline or I have selectively picked them because certain aspects of the graphics drive me nuts and I couldn’t live without them so made them work.
Now, the first thing I’ll mention is that I do have the HD Oldrim, and it runs fine. So, if mods had the option for basic HD (not the insane 4k level of HD) then I picked it, especially if it was only a replacer. This meant I had a decent tradeoff between performance and looks.
Some of these mods are adult in nature. I will mention where they are optional even if you want a “life cycle” that is realistic because removing the optional just removes the animations and puts the sexy times behind closed doors rather than on screen. I’m not into the kinkier stuff, so don’t expect that on the list. That’s fine if you are… I just wasn’t for the purposes of playing the game. I went for more romantic and relationship adding modifications and intimacy between couples, or even flings, are a fact of life (and the possible fallout) so that’s there. I won’t tell you where to find them. Google can help you with that.
I’m not going to mention the perquisites to some – if you’re a modder you probably already know about FNIS and other mechanics and even mod organizers for modding. If not, in the communities you find these mods will have that information.
So, on to the mods themselves:
Climate Control/Character Reaction to Climate
Real Shelter – makes it so, if the shelter was well built enough, rain and snow don’t invade the indoor space. Unless it was crappily made. At which point, you’re SOL.
Campfire – makes it so you can make, break, and use camps instead of seeing them and not being able to interact with them unless there was a sleep roll already there or a pot and fire to cook in. This takes all of what little was in vanilla ‘Rim and takes to a very realistic level… and you can make your own camps as well.
Wet and Cold – I think the title is pretty self-explanatory here. It also affects the NPC’s. It will also tweak the AI so that NPC’s change clothes or put on cloaks to go outside of the weather is inclement or wear lighter clothing as the weather warms up.
Climates of Tamriel – A weather mod that adds actual feel to the weather and sticks close to how the weather should be in each area based on the lore. Also adds a lighting mod so that indoors either look warm and cosy, or cooler and more realistic… or you can not tweak the indoors at all. Between Real Shelter, this mod, and Wet & Cold you will notice NPC’s taking on and off outdoor clothing. Also, can affect dungeon lighting to make it realistic and hazardous (those torches are suddenly important!).
Frostfall – this is where all the other mods come together (and some are required for this to work). This will tweak your character, and all others, to actually be AFFECTED physically by the weather. Actual harm from hypothermia, exposure, etc. The camps you find around, and your house, now goes from “hmm, this is kind of cool but otherwise useless” to critically important.
Go To Bed – a tiny mod that shows the character changing for bed, laying down in the bed, and then fading to black as you fall asleep… and then waking up and changing again for the day.
Crafting and Equipment
Notice I’m adding only those that add to immersion and realism… not the super sexy cuts or stuff that make absolutely no sense to be in Skyrim (or Tamriel period) as cool as some can be.
Also, many of the really cool armours that aren’t necessarily canon to TES also don’t have support for the mods to the human body I will touch on later.
Alchemy and Food Overhaul – Food works as you would food expect to. It satisfies a need (which I will touch on later) and usually nothing more. Alchemy is more in line with rarity and the actual difficulty it should be. This is a great mod because it’s also very compatible with most, if not all, the best food and alchemy mods out there where others are not. It also seamlessly works with Campfire.
Complete Crafting Overhaul – For everything else crafting. Difficulty and rarity are taken into account. Also adds numerous new items and crafting materials into the game to make crafting far more immersive and satisfying. The way you level crafting is completely overhauled, although the perks don’t change. You can tweak the mod to be plain old vanilla with just the new items, or as realistic as you want to go.
Hunterborn - Makes hunting and harvesting from what you've hunted more realistic.
Weapon and Armor Fixes Remade – Fixes numerous bugs and inconsistences with weapons and armor.
Immersive Weapons – Those with weapons wear them realistically and weapons are assigned realistically.
Cloaks of Skyrim – the one thing that always bugged me… no cloaks at all. Anywhere. This fixes that and makes them craftable as well. Also, Frostfall and Wet & Cold will recognize if you are wearing a cloak and adjust your “needs” accordingly.
Cloaks of Skyrim – Winter is Coming – Adds Games of Thrones style fur cloaks and helms and the like. Again, Frostfall and Wet & Cold will recognize that added layer of protection in cold areas.
Realistic Carrying Capacity - If you thought it was ridiculous that your character could carry an army's worth of stuff, then this is the mod for you.
Character and People
These mods affect how characters and people react in game, as well as some animations, AI, etc.
Realistic Ragdolls and Force – People don’t fall over, stiff like boards, like rigor mortis set in on killing them. They crumple. They get flung around. Also, the force required to fling people is tweaked to be more realistic… although, really, Fus Ro Dah is still going to send people flying. But your arrow won’t.
Guard Dialogue Overhaul – The most annoying aspect of the guards was their failure to recognize your new status. You are Thane, goddamit, get some respect shown! Or not, if you’re a known criminal. Does a bit more than this.
Run For Your Lives – Everyone but those who are considered military, guards, or adventurers who can take care of themselves will run for safety and/or cover when something dangerous happens. Civilians will run away and hide when dragons, vampires, etc. attack a town. Sometimes they’re not fast enough, but at least the idea is there.
Bells of Skyrim – puts working bells in those empty bell towers that will ring (works great with Run For Your Lives) when danger comes into a town. Hearing the clang of a bell while fighting a dragon adds this incredible degree of urgency that was missing before.
Realistic Needs and Diseases All-in-One USLEEP – This is the mod for realistic character needs. Food, drink, sleep, other needs… are now in the game. All the items have an actual purpose to keep you alive and you will need to maintain them. Food will spoil over time. Cooking good food will sustain you longer. Drinking tainted water will make you sick. Diseases progress normally, if you decide to add the option, and will eventually kill you. So will starvation, thirst, lack of sleep… now you know why Campfire and the others are important. Survival and exploration are now equal partners in the game.
These are mods that affect how your character relates to others, and how others relate to others.
Realistic Conversations – gone are the repeating and inane conversations that were cool for the first five minutes of loading into the game and then really, truly annoying after. This adds an actual feel of life to the NPC’s. It does start to feel a bit repetitive but it takes far, far longer and feels more like a favourite, and long, playlist than one good song that got old really, really fast.
Spouse Enhanced – If you plan to get married in game, this makes your spouse realistic. And I don’t mean for sex (although they will complain if you haven’t given them any in awhile) but all aspects. Your spouse will do more than just sit around the house all day. They will also have changing moods and be far more interactive.
Relationship Dialogue Overhaul – I love this mod. People now react realistically to the player depending on what the character has done, and their moral leanings and numerous other factors than just you doing a quest for them. You can also, through the MCM, change how the individual NPC feels about you but this is a little bit immersion breaking. However, you can use this mod to make otherwise unmarriable chararacters marriable, like in my case Kodlak Whitemane (yes, that Kodlak) or not marry them at all and become “lovers” but with no actual marriage on record which means you can marry someone else later (wouldn’t suggest marrying someone else and trying to cheat on said spouse, especially if the would be other man/woman has any moral character at all… both will be extremely unhappy with you!) if, say, something happens to your lover. Or, you know, just never marry at all. The funny part is, once you attain lover status with someone you get to share their house and their belongings as if you did marry them. Their bed becomes yours, etc. I loved this because it meant I didn’t have to push the Companion’s questline forward for awhile outside of meeting Kodlak and getting Vilkas the hell out of the old man’s office so I could romance the Harbinger.
Which, as a note, isn’t that hard, especially with a few of the other mods. Spoiler alert—he’s been dreaming of your character before he met you. After you show Vilkas you can handle yourself—and take Aela her new shield and get shown to your new bed with the other newbloods—go see Kodlak again. Close the door and go through all of the options in the dialogue, and then, with another of the mods here (and so long as you have proven your worth in other honourable ways), you should be able to romance him. Not to spell it out or anything, but he leaps on the chance… perhaps taking it as a sign that you showed up with interest.
As a note, I romanced him and got attached. I’ll have to write about that in a different post though.
Anyway, to continue:
Beeing Female – This is a mod that makes it so your character (if you’re female) or another character (if you’re not) follow a normal menstrual cycle with everything that means (although you can turn off and tweak aspects of it). It also effects men in that it controls fertility. With the right skeleton and armor mods installed, it will also make it so pregnancy shows. Unfortunately, the only mod I could find for children seems to only affect adopted children – so, if you’re expected children to grow up unfortunately that doesn’t seem to happen. Keep in mind this mod affects the entire game and all NPCs. Women will have babies. If you find that the pregnancy rate is a bit high, you can dial it back or lengthen the time spent pregnant and the recovery period to longer. For immersion, I suggest the latter with a little of the former thrown in and make it so they carry around baby items (ie: a baby in arms). If you have the time and birthrate tweaked just right you will notice only one baby at any given time in a town, and maybe one pregnant woman at any time rather than your NPCs suddenly taking on the characteristics of busy rabbits.
Hearthfire Multiple Adoptions (and the matching housing mod) – Allows you to adopt up to six kids instead of just two, and with the right housing mod you will also have the beds for a family that large, especially in larger player homes like the Manors you can build with Hearthfire.
KS Hair Renewal (Male & Female – Need Both) – because the vanilla hair doesn’t have enough variety. Some of the options are reasonably immersive/lore friendly but others aren’t. However, there are some mods that rely on the files.
Ethereal Elven Overhaul – Makes elves look like how elves in fantasy are supposed to look.
Apachii Skyhair – more hair options, only these are far more lore friendly.
Alternate Start – Live Another Life – I find this critical. Sometimes I can’t reload a game after coming back to Skyrim because I will CTD (Crash to Desktop) on loading. However, for some reason, if I start a new game (which would be a long, tortuous process with the regular start) and just get past the character creation, I can load my save as normal and never see a hint of a stutter or problem. I have no idea why this works, just that it does in my case. Outside of that, it allows for more options in starting the game and, if you desire it, the option to avoid starting the primary “dragon” related quest at all until you are ready to. This means you can wander around pretty much freely without looking up and wondering if a dragon is about to get the drop on you. You are free to enter Whiterun (because it’s open… no dragon issues yet) and everywhere else unless you have to do that quest chain to gain access.
You can, potentially, do all of the main quests or just the ones that interest you… and then go back to Helgen and find it already ransacked. Do a little investigating, and then the primary quest will start although you will start when the dragon flies off over the mountains close to Riverwood. Bandits will have already moved into Helgen—so the entire start of the game will have been missed. You will not run into either of the NPCs that led you through the dungeon until you choose a side in the civil war. This is where the dialogue gets a little strange as they haven’t changed it so they will both react as if they did lead you through the dungeon. A small detail, one that I shrug my shoulders over, and perhaps a modder out there may add a tweak someday to fix it but it’s not truly that immersion breaking anyway.
The Adult Mods
Okay, so I do have some of them as some add actual romance and a bit more depth to the relationships between characters, including tweaks that take into account how physically attractive a character is.
Please note that you have to be over the age of majority in whatever jurisdiction you live in to use these or even download them. Please do not go looking for these if there are little ones running about at home.
Sexlab – this is the core of the program. You can’t run any of these without this installed, no matter how non-graphic the others are. It doesn’t necessarily have to be activated, but the assets have to be present.
Sexlab Romance – Enough said. This is where seduction and romancing come into play.
Sexlab Attraction – Nothing more than a framework to control, and add tweaks, for physical attractiveness to factor into things.
Sexlab Aroused – Between this mod, RDO, and Spouses Enhanced creates a realistic (remember I said with a certain mod, your spouse will complain if they haven’t had any in awhile? This is that mod!) scaling of how an adult character thinks about sex and their relative level of arousal based on external (and internal) factors, for example their attractive significant other waking them up in the morning wearing nothing but a smile… or even their not so physically attractive but well loved significant other… as emotions and attachment play heavily together with these mods installed.
Any character, including yours, will now be a normal living, breathing, sentient being with realistic needs and desires. With the Sexlab animations installed, and the right UUNP or CBBE body scaling added, well… how they react to these needs will play out on your screen with absolutely no “fade to black”. The adult stuff is completely optional, so without it if your characters decide to let things progress naturally as adults often can do, it will fade to black and be significantly more family friendly but still realistic.
That’s entirely up to you, as a consenting adult capable of your own choices. If you’re underage, then obviously you can skip the adult only mods and still have a very immersive game.
I will also add that Sexlab is very resource heavy and can cause CTD’s to older computers.
Sometimes even my computer has issues with it because it’s a large mod and the larger the mod the more resources it will need to load and play. This means stability issues. Proceed with caution.
Obviously, there are other mods that add realism and immersion out there, and some that are bigger and better.
The problem with these is some of them aren’t compatible with custom races (and I like playing a Snow Elf) or they are huge mods that require a better computer than mine to keep stable.
Remember, I only talked about the MODS, not the perquisites for these mods. I assume that you will have them before going through this list.
Optional Mods That Are Just Cool
These are mods I have installed that I absolutely love but you don’t need to for immersion. Actually, some of them may even break immersion (to a point).
The Ancient Falmer – A Snow Elf Race Mod – Bar none, and I have tried numerous different mods and Steam workshop items, the best Mod if you want to play a snow elf or just have a few more than the one (two?) introduced in Dawnguard running around Skyrim. Install the items, weapons, and crafting mod (one of them is already on my list) that this mod suggests for full impact of having this truly awesome race walk Tamriel once more.
Play As a Bard – Use the Steam Workshop version as the modmaker keeps that version updated rather than the Nexus Mods version. Adds another equipable item (a lute!) and the ability to entertain as a bard in taverns, and eventually even in front of Jarls. Adds so much more to the Bardic college including the ability to buy music books you can then learn music from and perform. You can even add, through the MCM, your own custom music but keep it under five minutes as anything longer than five minutes can cause CTD’s.
Rucksack – Adds another wearable item, which, in retrospect, should have been up with immersion… and that’s a backpack that actually works. It adds to how much you can carry, and has various bits and bobs that you can swap out for cooking, making camp, etc.