Monday, November 28, 2022

The Best Modlist for Skyrim

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Hey there, thanks for stopping by! I’m Elias. 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 and curate a list of all the most amazing mods that have ever and will ever exist in Skyrim’s long life. In that time, Skyrim modding has progressed 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, developing and patching this list. I hope that you enjoy my labor of love and come to realize why BMS is the most stable, beautiful and cared for platform for Skyrim modding! – Ai Elias, BMS Author

Because BMS is 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: 0.21.0b
Last Compiled: 11/10/2021
Last Updated: 11/10/2021

For:
Skyrim SE 1.5.97
SKSE64 2.0.19

Latest:
Skyrim SE 1.5.97
SKSE64 2.0.20
Skyrim AE 1.6.318
SKSE64 AE 2.1.1

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.

Hard Requirements

  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 10 or 11. BMS will not work with the Xbox Game Pass version of SSE because it has a different engine version.
  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 150GB of space on the installation drive plus another 150GB (can be on a separate slow drive) for download archives. While an SSD is technically not required for BMS, I highly recommend using a drive rated for at least 600MB/s read for the installation if you plan on using the BMS [3] Graphics & Visuals module. This will keep your loading times way down.
  4. No 3rd Party Antivirus – Some antivirus programs take issue with the MO2 Virtual File System we are using to manage mods. Furthermore, there are so many antivirus programs out there and because I don’t personally use any, I do not plan on writing instructions for how to get them to support BMS. So make sure they’re disabled, exclude MO2 or whatever you have to do and if you’re still having issues running BMS, remove any AVs present on your machine before seeking help. Windows Defender should take no issue with BMS. Thanks for understanding!

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.

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.
WARNING
Currently, Wabbajack requires version 1.5.97 (SE) to build BMS. If you are using the AE update (1.6+) you will first need to revert your Skyrim version else your installation will fail. You can do so using this tool.
ATTENTION
Nexusmods has removed the Cutting Room Floor 3.1.9 archive from their site. Please do not attempt to install BMS while this message is in effect. Unless you have manually obtained the download, the installation will fail.
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. 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. Enable Ultrawide Compatibility (21:9 and 32:9 aspect ratio users only) – BMS provides out of the box compatibility for Ultrawide (21:9 ratio; 2560x1080p and 3440x1440p resolutions) and Super Ultrawide (32:9 aspect ratio; 3840x1080p and 5120x1440p resolutions) displays that must be enabled. First, make sure that your display resolution is set to one of the aforementioned aspect ratios as specified via the prior instruction. Then, enable the either the BMS [1] Essentials – 21×9 Ultrawide UI or BMS [1] Essentials – 32×9 Super Ultrawide UI mod in the left modlist pane of MO2 using the left hand checkbox. Not both. These are found under the [1.4] Patches & Misc Files separator.
  3. 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.

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.

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.

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. The other potential cause for this is that Wabbajack messed up your “Managed Game” path. Make sure that it’s pointing to the SkyrimSE.exe file inside your Stock Game BMS instance folder. Your settings paths should look similarly to this.

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:”YourStockGameDataPath” argument to the executable in MO2. You MUST include the quotes if your path has spaces in it!

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.

0.21.0b – 11/10/2021

General:
– Significant improvements and changes to BMS 3 level of detail. It’s not quite perfect but it’s very close.
– Rebuilt object lod.
– Rebuilt terrain lod.
– Updated grass groundcovers to the QW patch. These looks really nice and are a slightly less demanding than what BMS previously offered.
– Optimized INI settings for LOD levels, shadows and grasses.
– Updated patches to forward updates and changes from previous versions.
– Increased uGridsToLoad to 7 from 5. This appears to be a stable change in SSE and was done to provide a better transition between full shadows and lod shadows. All the evidense online pointing to this destablizing the game is from the LE days and is anecdotal. I’ll be testing BMS with this setting going forward.

BMS [1] Essentials:
– Added “Simple Activate SKSE” mod
– Added “eFPS – Exterior FPS Boost” mod. I preferred it’s old name, this one’s clickbait but still a good mod. Boosts FPS -minimums in certain exterior locations and towns by adding occlusion planes.
– Updated “.NET Script Framework” mod to 18
– Updated “powerofthree’s Papyrus Extender” mod to 4.5.2
– Slight Main Menu design changes
– Fixed Main Menu resetting to right side of screen in 32:9 and 21:9 aspect ratios
– Fixed Main Menu confirm buttons scaling up and down slightly
– Fixed Main Menu save thumbnail to be proper aspect ratio for 32:9 and 21:9 aspect ratios
– Centralized main menu load icon
– Centralized loading menu, added patrons and removed display nifs

BMS [2] Audio:
– Removed “Sounds of Skyrim Complete” mod. The more I played with this mod the more of its low quality sound effects became apparent. I’ve decided that the best course of action was to just remove it. Most of you won’t even notice it’s gone. This mod was also the cause of the annoying bird flapping/leaf rustling noise (bug) that occurred throughout the world
– Removed “Audiobooks of Skyrim – Gopher Collection”. Many of the audiobooks in this mod have music playing in them which doesn’t work well with the game music. All books covered in this mod are covered in the original mod anyway.

BMS [3] Graphics & Visuals:
– Added “Solstheim Objects SMIMed” mod
– Added “Unreal 4K-8K Mammoth Skeleton ReTexture” mod
– Added “OH GOD BEES SE – More Bees-More Hives-HD Textures” mod
– Added “Animated Forge Water” mod
– Added “Dragonborn Ingredients” mod
– Added “Dark Brotherhood Armor SE” mod. Glad someone replaced the crappy vanilla model.
– Added “Awesome Potions Simplified” mod.
– Added “Depths of Skyrim – An Underwater Overhaul SSE” mod.
– Added “Folkvangr – Grass and Landscape Overhaul” mod.
– Added “Veydosebrom Regions” mod.
– Added “Cathedral – 3D Pine Grass” mod.
– Added “QW’s Grass Patch” mod
– Updated “Water for ENB” mod to 1.46
– Updated “Feminine Khajiit Textures” mod to 3.0
– Updated “No Grass In Objects” mod to 8
– Updated “Vivid Landscapes – Rocking Stones and Mountains – With or Without Parallax” to 1.7
– Updated “Skyland Nordic Ruins” mod to 2.0
– Updated “Frozen Electrocuted Combustion” mod to 4.9.6
– Updated “Feminine Argonian Textures” mod to 3.1
– Updated “Feminine Khajiit Textures” mod to 3.1
– Updated “Skyland Whiterun” mod to 2.1
– Updated “Retextured Salts with FX” to 1.4
– Removed “Tamriel Retextured – HD Texture Pack” mod. No longer needed with updated “Skyland Nordic Ruins” textures.
– Removed “Gecko’s Nordic Ruins Textures” mod. No longer needed with updated “Skyland Nordic Ruins” textures.
– Removed “The Elder Scrolls – Veydosebrom” mod. With the new grasses this wasn’t necessary anymore.
– Removed “Blacksmith Forge Water Fix – Special Edition” mod. Obsolete with “Animated Forge Water”.
– Removed “XxAwesome_PotionsxX SSE” mod. Obsolete with “Awesome Potions Simplified”
– Removed “HD Better Instruments 4K”. Obsolete with “JS Instruments of Skyrim SE” mod added in prior update.
– Fixed mismatched and naked bodies from the previous versions
– Fixed blackhead on Cicero and Borkul the Beast

Skyrim Mods Reviews

2019 Skyrim SE Modding Guide