Sunday, April 11, 2021

The Best Modlist for Skyrim

Welcome! Let’s Start Something Awesome.

Hey there! Thanks for stopping by! I’m Ai Elias, the creator of this modlist. When I started this project in 2019, my goal was simple: to create the BEST compilation of mods that anyone, regardless of their skill level, could benefit from. I wanted to create one curated list of all the best mods that have ever and will ever exist in Skyrim’s long life span, along with my step-by-step installation directions and recommendations for a stable load order. In that time, Skyrim modding has changed to allow for automated modlist installations through the use of a simple tool called Wabbjack. This amazing tool allows BMS to be utilized by more people, more easily. Allowing everyone, novice or pro, to instantly benefit from the hundreds of hours I have spent compiling and patching this list. Regardless of which other modlist or guide you were considering, rest assured that you have stumbled on the right one! Because this list in constant development, let me first direct you to our Discord server on the right. If you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to stop by!

Modlist Version: 0.20.7b
Last Compiled: 03/28/2021
Last Updated: 03/28/2021

For:
Skyrim SE 1.5.97
SKSE64 2.0.19

Latest:
Skyrim SE 1.5.97
SKSE64 2.0.19

What is The Best Modlist for Skyrim?

The Best Modlist for Skyrim, or BMS, is the culmination of hundreds of hours modding Skyrim and seeks to consider every mod that has ever existed and will ever exist on Nexus and beyond. It compiles every single noteworthy mod that ever existed and will ever exist into a list and then filters that list repeatedly to achieve synergy, cohesion and most importantly stability. That’s right, because the list of Skyrim mods is ever changing, this is an ongoing effort–not a one and done list. What this means is that our modlist is ever updating, growing and improving. Unlike many lists however that dump massive quantities of mods without further testing or polish, BMS is committed to a higher level of quality. Bugs and Crashes are enemy number one and are patched as soon as possible upon discovery.

What about the types of mods you should expect? First and foremost, BMS strives for immersion and lore friendliness. This is, however, also my personally curated list of mods–ones that I enjoy using, and playing with… meaning your definition of lore-friendliness may be different to mine. Because of that, shortly after I started this endeavor, I realized that not everybody’s tastes to gameplay, visuals, and audio are similar to mine. So I decided to do more than create a one-size-fits-all, “my way or the highway” modlist…

Who is BMS for?

I decided to make a Modlist that could help anybody and everybody–all in a way that doesn’t bulldoze you, the user, into a modlist that you can’t deviate from. If an install-and-play modlist is something that you are looking for however, don’t worry, that is still an option. In fact, it’s the very foundation this BMS is built upon. So regardless of your experience or inexperience with modding, regardless of how long you’ve been with the Bethesda modding community and, most importantly, regardless of the amount of time you do or do not have–this guide has information specifically tailored for you.

ShowcaseRequirementsDownloadSetupFAQRoadmapLegacy
BMS [3] Graphics & Visuals Showcase

Hard Requirements

BMS does not have many hard requirements but there are a few things you should make certain of before moving on.

  1. Skyrim Special Edition – You need to own Skyrim Special Edition on PC to make use of BMS. That means it has to be from Steam and running on Windows. I do not know if BMS will work with the Xbox Game Pass version of SSE. Feel free to let me know if you have it.
  2. English Localization – Make sure your game’s localization is set to English. BMS doesn’t support other languages.
  3. Enough Drive Space – While BMS [1] Essentials and BMS [2] Audio are not that large on their own, BMS [3] Graphics and Visuals requires upwards of 125GB additional space on the installation drive plus another 125GB (can be on a separate slow drive) for download archives. While an SSD is technically not required for BMS, I highly recommend installing a SATA one at least for the installation if you will be using the BMS [3] Graphics & Visuals module. This will keep your loading times way down.

BMS [3] Graphics & Visuals

Let me know if how your performance is with the low tier cards. These are only rough estimates and I need real hardware performance to gauge accuracy.

Downloads

Below are the Wabbajack files which will allow you to automate the installation and compilation of BMS on your machine. Keep in mind that each file below includes the modules below it! Example: BMS [3] also includes BMS [2] and BMS [1]. Hit the download button in the top of drive to download the archives.

I will put up notifications for missing files as soon as I’m aware of them. If you see such a warning, please hold off on downloading the file until the error is resolved. This usually takes no more than 12 hours.

WARNING: The BMS [3] Graphics & Visuals module is currently in Early Access for everyone. This means that you will more than likely encounter content that is out of place or not final. You will need a powerful graphics card to run BMS [3] at this time. I would love to hear your feedback on my Discord! Your thoughts are one of the best ways I can continue improving BMS!

NOTIFICATIONS: 4/11/2021 – The Particle Patch download link has changed so you will need to place the archive into your downloads folder manually for BMS [3] until I update to .20.8b. Download it here.

BMS Installation Guide

Manual Steps

Prior to launching the automated installer, a few manual steps need to be taken which cannot be handled by Wabbajack.

  1. Clean Installation – Make sure that you have a clean installation of Skyrim Special Edition with no external files present in the Data folder. This has to be the latest version of the game, it CANNOT be pirated, must be outside the Program Files and Program Files (x86) folders and preferably on the fastest drive you have. The game’s data folder need only contain 23 files. 5 vanilla ESMs and 18 “Skyrim” BSA archives. Please make sure that the ESMs have NOT been cleaned. A video folder will also probably be present though it isn’t necessary. Anything else needs to be removed.
  2. Launched Once – Make sure to launch Skyrim at least once to the main menu for Steam to generate any necessary files.
  3. Install C++ RedistributableMicrosoft Visual C++ Redistributable for Visual Studio 2019 needs to be installed on your Windows operating system. Skyrim is a 64 bit game so make sure you hit the “x64” link. Restart your machine if necessary.

Wabbajack

Download and install Wabbajack from this link. It’s an automated modlist compiler which will handle the installation of BMS. Install it wherever you wish though I prefer my Modding Tools folder.

Note: without a Nexus Premium membership, you will have to manually click the download link for every mod. This can take some time. I highly suggest buying a month of premium if you’ll be installing BMS[3] or higher so you can save yourself a bunch of time. It’s only about $4 USD at the time of writing and it goes towards supporting the file hosting that makes all this possible.

Wabbajack Compilation

Open Wabbajack, select “Install From Disk” and point the application to the BMS “.wabbajack” file you downloaded above. Set the “Installation Location” to the location you want the modlist installed to. This CANNOT be in your Skyrim game folder and must be on the same drive as your game. I like to create a folder on the same level as my Skyrim Special Edition folder and name it “Skyrim Special Edition BMS [x] vX.XX”. For best results make sure to install BMS and Skyrim to your fastest drive. NVME SSDs rule for uncompressed files. Set a “Download Location” for the downloaded mod archives. This can be on a different drive because these files are not used at runtime, just for the installation. I recommend keeping these file after installation to quicken future BMS updates. Keep in mind that the installation may take some time. We are downloading 100+ GB worth of files.

Post Installation

To fine-tune BMS for your setup, a few additional steps need to be taken once the Wabbajack installer completes.

  1. Set Display Resolution – Your native display resolution will automatically be set by Wabbajack during the installation process. In the the event that you’d like to downscale your resolution for performance reasons, this can be done by hitting the puzzle piece icon in the top of MO2, heading to the INI Editor and skyrimprefs.ini. From there look for iSize H and iSize W. Clicking in the text window and pressing Ctrl + F will allow you to search. Set those to your desired vertical and horizontal resolutions respectively and save.
  2. Add Oblivion Music (BMS [2] Optional) – If you own TES IV Oblivion and wish to import the music, you can do so by opening the “TES IV Oblivion Music” mod and moving the tracks into the “music -> oblivion” folder. You only need “atmosphere_01, 03, 04, 06, 07, 08, 09”, “dungeon_01, 02, 03, 04, 05” and “town_01, 02, 03, 04, 05”. After, make sure to untick the “BMS [2] Audio – Patch – No Oblivion Music” mod in MO2.
  3. Install ENB Binaries (BMS [3] Only) – Unfortunately, Boris really doesn’t like people hotlinking directly to his ENB binaries so in order to avoid frustration on both my end and yours, you will need to install these files yourself. Go to the ENB Dev page. Then head to News, Download, TES Skyrim SE, vHIGHEST and hit the pixelated download arrow at the bottom of the page. Extract the archive with 7Zip or anything else, go into WrapperVersion and get the d3d11.dll and d3dcompiler_46e.dll files. Place them into your BMS installation’s Stock Game folder. That’s it.

Texture Optimization for BMS [3]

BMS [3] Graphics & Visuals can use upwards of 15GB of VRAM in its uncompressed state. Most GPUs on the market today cannot handle this uncompressed load and will reroute textures to RAM when VRAM is filled. If you notice any sort of hitching or stuttering in outdoor locations, it may be caused by this offloading and you may want to compress your installation’s textures courtesy of these simple instructions from my good friend zDas. This will lower their fidelity to 2K (even for large meshes which may look better at their native texture resolution), decrease VRAM usage significantly and increase FPS significantly. You can always reinstall BMS again from the downloaded archives so there is no harm in trying this out if your machine is a little behind the times.

  1. Download Cathedral Assets Optimizer (CAO).
  2. Extract it to a folder. You can place it in your Modding Tools folder or anywhere that’s convenient.
  3. Download the SSE – Downscale to 2K profile.
  4. Extract the folder to the “profiles” folder found where you extracted CAO.
  5. Run CAO.
  6. Select the SSE – Downscale to 2K profile.
  7. Choose “Several mods” on the dropdown list to the right of the “Run” button.
  8. Point CAO to your base “mods” folder. This is in the folder where you installed BMS [3].
  9. Click run and wait for completion. The process can take a few hours.

Bugs

Please report any of the following bugs on my Discord’s #feedback channel should you experience them in an unmodified BMS installation. BMS is committed to quality and stability but Skyrim is a big game so your diligence in reporting problems is a necessity for continued improvement.

  1. Failure to Install – Because the files included in BMS are hosted by individual users, it does mean that sometimes they can be moved, removed or changed leading to failed installations. I frequently check for removed files but let me know if this happens to you and it will be fixed promptly.
  2. Crash to Desktops (CTDs) – These usually take the form of the game immediately terminating to your Windows desktop but can also sometimes appear as freezes. Neither of these should EVER be experience in a good modlist so please do NOT ignore these. Report them so that I may fix them. Tell me where it occurred, and anything you did in-game immediately prior to the crash.
  3. Light/Shadow Flickering – Skyrim is poorly optimized and limited when it comes to in-engine lighting. If you see meshes around a scene turning suddenly bright from dark or visa versa as you move around (with or without a torch equipped), report them to me. They are a nuisance and need to be weeded out. Tell me the location.
  4. Quest Progression Issues – Any irregularities in quests. There shouldn’t be any of these in BMS as of now but you never completely know for sure.
  5. Any other issues – Anything that takes away or detracts from your great experience with BMS I want to know about, don’t hesitate to tell me!

Launching the Game

Launching the game is an easy matter. Find the “ModOrganizer.exe” file in BMS installation path and launch it. This will open up MO2 mod manager with BMS [3]. Find SKSE in the top right dropdown menu and run it. You can also create a shortcut by hit the button below it. Select desktop and you can launch straight into the game from it. Remember that Steam needs to be open prior to launching SKSE.

Updating BMS

Updating BMS is a simple matter of deleting your prior installation directory, downloading the new Wabbajack file above and installing it to the same path. NOTE: BMS does not support cross version save transfers. It is recommended that you start a new game each time you update. If you’re really attached to your character, don’t update.

Wabbajack is unable to download an archive.

Check to make sure that the Nexus site is not down. If it is, wait until it’s back online and try again. If one or two files were unable to be downloaded, that means these files were probably removed by the mod author and I need to recompile the installer. Please tell me on my Discord and be patient while I reupload. If many files were unable to be downloaded, Wabbajack probably derped up or your internet connection is bad. Run it again.

Why does the main menu have purple squares?

This is issue is encountered when launching BMS from an SKSE desktop shortcut created from MO2. This appears to be a bug related to the mod manager’s virtual file system. Closing Skyrim and relaunching the shortcut usually solves this issue, though running from MO2 directly seems to be a better solution.

Where is the BMS game folder located?

BMS duplicates your Steam game folder and uses the copy at runtime to avoid any conflicts or issues from prior mods. These copied files can be found in ‘BMS installation folder\Stock Game’.

I found a purple object in the game world, did I do something wrong?

Nope. Purple models denote missing textures. Please report them to the #feedback channel of my Discord so that I can fix them.

My game randomly crashes after a loading screen, why?

You installed BMS [3] Graphics & Visuals and your system is running out of memory. If you want to play with uncompressed textures, you will need a minimum combined memory spec of VRAM + DRAM > 31GB.

My game window is too big for my display!

In the unlikely event that your game window is too big for your display, open your BMS installation folder and navigate to the “Stock Game”. From there right click the SkyrimSE.exe file, go to “Properties > Compatibilty > Change high DPI settings” and set the “High DPI scaling override” to “Application” in the dropdown list.

Can I sort BMS with LOOT?

Here’s the short answer.

And the long answer? No, because I have manually sorted and patched the BMS load order to insure as few issues as possible. LOOT will mess this load order up because it doesn’t know any better.

So how do sort the BMS load order?

In many cases, mods you download will be ok at the end of the BMS load order. That’s only slightly worse than the level of certainty LOOT provides when it comes to assuring a bug free load order. If you want to be as certain as possible, learn to use xEdit and hone your skills by checking records and resolving conflicts manually instead of relying on one-size-fits-all algorithms.

How do I set up tools like xEdit to detect my BMS instance?

First, you need to set them up to run from the executables list in the MO2 BMS instance. Then you need to set their game directory paths to point at the ‘BMS Instance\Stock Game’ folder or the SkyrimSE.exe file or Data folder within. This can usually be set in the application settings menu itself though in the case of xEdit, you need to add the “-D:StockGameDataFolder” argument to the executable in MO2.

Which mods are included in BMS?

There is very little information to be gained from looking at only the mod names included in BMS. Mods in BMS are not just thrown together, they are modified on an individual level to ensure that they work together smoothly and seamlessly. Many mods include as few one or two files from the original mod and many more have numerous modified files like plugins and scripts which differ from the originals. This is something you will only be able to perceive by testing out BMS for yourself and looking through the BMS MO2 Instance.

You’re still here? No seriously, go install the modlist and see for yourself. No? Fine. You can see the mods included in each module by downloading their respective manifest file here, then dropping the manifest file into the Wabbajack Manifest Viewer.

v.20.8b – Bugfixes. Reports have been piling up and I need to deal with them.
v.21.0b – Facial Appearance Overhaul

Looking for BMS Legacy? It’s no longer supported but you can find the link here.

Skyrim Mods Reviews

Gaming Blog

2019 Skyrim SE Modding Guide