Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The Best Modlist > [ii] General Information

NOTE:
This compilation of mods is part of a larger Modlist. If this is the first time seeing the Ai Cave Modlist please check out the landing page first!

Some Information to Help You Along

As you follow along with our Modlist, there is a fair bit of general information that you will need to know. More often than not, lacking this information will cause the biggest pitfalls when creating your modlist. That means, the information here needs to be known by everyone that uses mods. Period. No exceptions. If you’re a Journeyman or Evoker, I would suggest reading over everything and making sure that you understand it well. Wizards, you might be able to get away with skimming this section and filling in gaps in knowledge where necessary. Though going over these things again wont hurt you either.

Mod Installation

Most mods are very easy to install with Mod Organizer 2 and require only a few basic steps. For BMS, it should be assumed that this is the complete installation procedure for any mod that does not have additional steps in its description.

Directing Nexus Downloads to MO2

Before you start, make sure that you have set Mod Organizer 2 to handle Nexus download links. To do this, go to the “Nexus” tab of your MO2 settings, hit the “Connect to Nexus” button and authorize MO2 in the browser window that appears. Note that sometimes Nexus servers are out of whack and you may need to wait a while or come back later before Nexus will allow you to authorize. After authorizing, simply hit the “Associate with ‘Download with manager’ links” button and you should be good.

Knowing Your Mods

Before downloading any mod, be sure you’ve read the following information:

  1. Read the entire main “DESCRIPTION” page. I know this is time consuming, but it’s well worth it. Your knowledge on a mod’s features is your first line of defense against crashes, conflicts and other problems. Note that some mod authors have manual installation instructions or use different mod managers for said instructions–these directions are safe to ignore.
  2. Skim the first “POSTS” page if the mod has one and read all the pinned posts. (Pinned posts are red and located at the top of the list)
  3. Skim the first “BUGS” page if the mod has one. This is a good indication of a mod’s quality, just note that anyone can post there and much of the time it’s user error though not always. The highlighted number in the tab itself shows how many mods have been left unresolved or unaddressed by the author.

Installation

  1. In the “FILES” tab, download the file with the version number that matches the “Used Version:” information in The Best Modlist. Do this with the “Mod Manager Download” button. Keep in mind that the file you have to download may be in any of the following categories of the File Tab: “Main Files”, “Update Files”, “Optional Files” or “Old Files”. If there are multiple files with the same version number in the downloads list, I will always specify the correct version to download. If there are additional files you should download, if there are other specific instructions, or different installation procedure–I will also let you know through text or Tags.

    You will have to navigate through the “Slow download” window and the 5 second ‘PlzPayUs’ timer (rly Nexus?). To speed this up you can get Nexus premium or install the following script to your browser.
  2. Open the “Downloads” tab in the right pane of MO2 and double click the mod you installed. Then hit ok.
  3. Activate the mod by hitting the check box next to its name in your left-side modlist and drag it just below your last activated mod.

Additional Tags

The purpose of Tags is to provide you with quick, at-a-glance, information about a mod. Tags mainly provide you with a means of identifying which additional steps need to be taken during and after a mod’s installation and provide you with a means of referencing information for problems that may arise in the future (Ctrl + F is your friend, especially with [BʀᴇᴀᴋsOɴUᴘᴅᴀᴛᴇ]). Also–it keeps me from repeating myself a million times over. Additional information on each tag can be found at the end of each short description.

Please keep in mind that because this is a large info dump, you may not want to read it all at once but instead keep this page open and refer back each time a tag is encountered. Work smarter, not harder! 🙂

Maintenance:

[BʀᴇᴀᴋsOɴUᴘᴅᴀᴛᴇ] – Updates to SkyrimSE.exe may break this mod. Make sure this mod supports your current runtime and that a patch is available prior to updating Skyrim! Disable Steam auto updates prior to using this mod.

More Info

This TAG is usually assigned to mods that are SKSE plugins or SKSE themselves and are there to inform you that the mod is known to break when SSE updates. This does not necessarily mean that the plugin is guaranteed to break when Special Edition updates (Although in the case of SKSE64, it is), just that previous updates have caused it to break in the past.

What is the purpose of [BʀᴇᴀᴋsOɴUᴘᴅᴀᴛᴇ]?

The purpose of this TAG is mainly to inform you to keep your eye on this mod before updating your Skyrim runtime. In other words, I recommend that you make sure all mods in your load order that have this tag are updated to work with the newest version of Skyrim and SKSE64 before updating your game.

If you are a Journeyman and thus following my load order to the T, you do not need to worry. I will only update the guide to the newest version of Special Edition when every mod included is compatible. Just be sure to check the latest runtime version for this Modlist (it’s located at the top of the main page), because if you’re starting just after an update to the game you may have to actually downgrade versions.

Updating Mods

When the time finally comes to update your modlist, you will need to update each incompatible mod and SKSE64 individually. Luckily, this process is extremely easy! Simply follow the same installation procedure you followed the first time you installed the mod and select replace/overwrite in any menus that appear in File Explorer or Mod Organizer 2.

Installation:

[GᴀᴍᴇFᴏʟᴅᴇʀ] – This mod contains files that need to be placed in the Game Folder manually.

More Info

A few select mods out there do go beyond messing with the game data and actually require you to manually place files in the root Skyrim Special Edition directory. This is the base Skyrim path and where SkyrimSE.exe resides. We have to place files there by hand because Mod Organizer 2 cannot access anything above the data directory.

Getting to this folder is easy with MO2, simply hit the folder drop-down button above the modlist and select “Open Game folder” like so:

The files you have to place here vary from mod to mod so more detailed information will be provided after each [GᴀᴍᴇFᴏʟᴅᴇʀ] tag.

[Mᴀɴᴜᴀʟ] – This mod does not have a “Mod Manager Download” and has to be downloaded with the “Manual Download” instead.

More Info

Certain game folder mods on Nexus do not have a “Mod Manager Download” button but still contain data folder files. Rather than installing those manually and ruining our pristine Data folder, we’re going to want to import the archive into Mod Organizer 2 after we’ve installed the game folder section (if one exists).

Method 1

After manually downloading the archive with the “Manual Download” button, be sure to first follow any prior installation procedures in the 2020 Modlist. Then simply drag the archive into the MO2 “Downloads” tab in the right pane. Be sure the “Downloads” tab is selected first (obviously). You may also have problems with the prior part if you are running MO2 as an administrator, so please don’t do that. The mod will now appear in your downloads tab with an exclamation point marker next to it. That simply means there is no Nexus mod or version information associated with the mod and you can query it by right clicking the mod and selecting “Query Info” then navigating through any additional windows (MO2 may ask which Skyrim Nexus it is from or what the mod ID is if it can’t figure it out from the filename). Keep in mind this will only work if the file is from Nexus. If your file is not from Nexus, you will have to type in the version manually after you install it.

From here you can follow the basic installation procedure to install the mod.

Method 2

Alternatively, if you want to just install a mod from an archive, you can hit the “CD Box” icon in the upper-left toolbar of MO2. It looks like this:

Then you can continue with the onscreen prompts to complete the installation. If you use this method, your mod will not appear in the “Downloads” pane.

[FᴏMᴏᴅ] – This mod contains a graphical interface to guide you through various installation options.

More Info

Below is what’s known as a FoMod, it will appear during installation. Certain mods have these to tailor an installation to specific user preferences. Whenever a mod has a FoMod, I will let you know what I selected and if you should select the same thing or not.

[SᴇᴛDᴀᴛᴀ] – This mod is not archived in an order MO2 can read properly so the Data folder must be set manually during installation.

More Info

Because Mod Oranizer 2 only builds out the data folder, mods must be archived in such a way so that no additional folders above data are present. Oftentimes though, authors improperly archive the data folder itself when packaging their mod or in the case of [GᴀᴍᴇFᴏʟᴅᴇʀ] mods, there is an additional layer of files. This causes MO2 to incorrectly set the data folder so we have to change it manually. After hitting the “Manual” button during the regular MO2 installation, you will be greeted with a red message that says “No game data on top level”. From there simply right click the correct data folder and select “Set data directory”. Note that sometimes the data folder isn’t clearly labeled at all, so for included mods I will always tell you what the correct data folder is.

Additional Info:

[Vᴇʀsɪᴏɴ] – Something about the MO2 tracking for this Mod is off, set the version manually.

More Info

Each mod on Nexus is flagged with its most recent version number and Mod Organizer 2 is able utilize this information to flag outdated versions in red. The problem occurs when mod authors use non-sequential versions when updating their mods or simply have multiple version choices for the user. When this happens, MO2 will flag the version in red even though it is up to date. If this happens in any Included mods, I will always let you know if we will change the version number manually or simply let it be.

Manually Changing a Mod’s Version

To change the version number of a mod manually, simply double click it in the modlist and go the “Nexus Info” tab. In the version box, simply enter the desired version. The text will automatically change to green if it is the mod’s most recent listed version.

[Nᴏᴛᴇ] – A note should be written in MO2 for this mod.

More Info

Sometimes I will recommend that you write Notes for certain mods to remember some important information. This can be easily done in MO2 with the following steps: Double click on the mod you want to write a note for in your modlist and open the “Notes” tab. My preferred method is to use the bottom text box rather than the top so a note flag will appear for the mod. This allows you to shorten the width of your mod list considerably without loosing valuable information. Anyway, simply write the note there. Because these are mod specific I will always have more information with this tag.

[XᴛʀᴀFɪʟᴇs] – This mod contains excess files in the data folder which are not required for gameplay.

More Info

Some mods contain files that aren’t used by the engine but are instead there for your convenience. Certain mods also just come with excess files because reasons (author negligence). Although there is an argument to be made that Readme text files and source code should remain in a mod’s installed files, most people (myself included) will never look at them and they will just visually clutter up our virtual data folder. For this reason I recommend removing them during or after installation. To remove files from a mod, follow the steps below. The specific files will be listed after this tag for each mod.

Removing Files During Installation

After hitting the “Manual” button during a regular installation, simply untick any files or folders which you don’t want to install.

Removing Files After Installation

Double click on the mod in question and go to the “Filetree” tab. Then simply right click and delete the files or folders.

[Oᴠᴇʀᴡʀɪᴛᴇ] – The first time this mod runs, it will generate a file in your Overwrite Mod.

More Info

Some mods generate files as part of their normal running process. In MO2 this behavior is a little more intrusive however because any new files are placed automatically into the “Overwrite” folder at the bottom of your left-side modlist. Because it is best practice to keep the Overwrite folder clear, we will want to move the file into the mod it belongs in. Once it is in there, any new file with the same name will simply overwrite the existing one already located in our mod. When doing this the important thing to keep in mind is that the folder structure must be the same as it was in Overwrite.

Moving Files out of Overwrite

Moving mods out of the Overwrite folder is an easy process. Simply open Overwrite by double clicking on it then drag the files from the window that appears to the mod they are from in your modlist. Alternatively, you could right click Overwrite and select “Move content to mod…”.

Manual Fixes:

[Dɪʀᴛʏ] – This mod has Wild Edits that should be cleaned with xEdit.

More Info

Dirty and Wild Edits occur normally during development in the Creation Kit. You can think of these as accidental or unintended changes in a mod that are not needed for core functionality. Usually, most mod authors will take the time to clean their mod from these edits but sometimes this isn’t the case. When this happens, we have to do it ourselves and fortunately its an extremely easy process.

Watch: DLC Cleaning

What you want to do is open up SSEEditQuickAutoClean.exe from within MO2 and check the plugin (and only the plugin) you want to clean. Any masters will be automatically loaded by xEdit so you don’t need to worry about that. Next, simply allow the application to run until it says “Quick Clean mode finished.” near the bottom of the message log. If you want to see a video example where I clean the official DLC plugins click the video title above. Note that we will clean the DLC in the Clean Install section so you don’t have to worry about doing that now.

[Fᴏʀᴍ43] – This mod is not properly ported from Oldrim, open it and save it in the Creation Kit.

More Info

Form 43 refers to the version of the record structure inside a plugin. As Special Edition was updated, new recorders were added and some of the existing ones were changed. This caused an issue with some mods, but for this reason we will be updating any Form 43 mods to Form 44, the latest SSE Form version.

Updating to Form 44

Open up the Creation Kit from within MO2 and make sure that the Form 43 plugin isn’t open in another application (like xEdit). Go to “File” in the top left and hit “Data…” or hit the open folder button just below it. Hit the tick box next to the Form 43 mod, press “Set as Active File” and “Ok”. Wait for the CK to load the mod then simply hit the floppy disk button in the top left to save or Ctrl + S if you prefer. Bam, done, easy!

[xEᴅɪᴛ] – This mod has some records that need to be changed in xEdit.

More Info

For certain mods, we will be making our own record changes. We’ll do this to forward changes made by the Unofficial Patch to mods that don’t have them and to make changes where appropriate. Obviously we can do a lot of things with this so the specific records that will need changing will be listed under each mod. Overall, editing records isn’t too difficult. About the only thing you will need to do is enter information into the spreadsheet that is xEdit manually.

Start by running SSEEdit from MO2, hit ok on the plugins window to load your entire load order and don’t tick anything on the modgroups window. On the left side are drop down lists for each loaded plugin. When you find the one in question, you can upon it up to see all the records it contains. From there, you can hit a specific record to view it.

Watch: Manually Cleaning Dawnguard by Editing Records

One of the first things you should do if we are dealing with record conflicts, is to right click the plugin list and select “Apply Filter to show Conflicts”. This will filter out only records with duplicates. A few handy thing to know is that above each column in xEdit is the name of the plugin the record is a part of and that records further right win out over those to the left. You will see this wen the background is red. Obviously if a row is green that means the record is the same through all the overwrites so it’s safe to ignore. Also don’t be fooled that red overwrites are bad, that is certainly not the case. It just means a value is being changed, nothing more nothing less. If you want to see an example of using xEdit to edit records, check out the video above where I clean the Dawnguard DlC manually. Note that we will do this down below.

[Nᴏᴛ60FPS] – Only applies to mods that modify files in the “Interface” folder. This mod’s .swf file is not set to run at 60 FPS and must be manually patched.

More Info

In the Essentials section we will utilize a nifty mod called 60 FPS Interface that has already patched this for in most instances. However, there will still be times that we will need to manually update interface files to 60 FPS. Interface files, by the way, are any of the menus that you see in-game. By default these values are set to 30 FPS but patching them is a simple process. Firstly you will need to install a free application called Jpexs Free Flash Decompiler from this link. Download the “ZIP” version as seen below:

As it is unlikely that most of you will use this application outside of modding, you can unpack it your Modding Tools folder, just keep in mind this doesn’t need to be run from MO2. You can name it FFDec.

Next double click the mod in question in your modlist, go to the “Filetree” tab and hit “Open Mod in Explorer”. From there, navigate to the file in question and right click it. Select “open with…”, “More apps”, scroll all the way down and “Look for another app on this PC”. Also don’t forget to check “Always use this app to open .swf files” to save you this arduous journey in the future. Navigate to where you unpackaged the Free Flash Decompiler and double click “ffdec.exe”.

Editing the Interface FPS in FFDec

When the Free Flash Decompiler opens the .swf file in question, select “No to all” for any URL loading prompts. From here, simply click on the “header” in the left pane and hit “Edit” at the bottom. In the “Frame rate:” value, enter 60 and hit save at the bottom. Then hit the big save button in the top left for good measure and exit out of the application. The interface file in question is now 60 FPS!

[ESLᴀʙʟᴇ] – The plugin for this mod can be converted to the ESL format to save room in your Load Order.

More Info

As you may or may not already know, Skyrim has a plugin limit of 255 after which the game will simply crash. Luckily, Skyrim Special Edition has introduced the ‘light’ plugin format which allows us flag ESPs or ESMs to allow them to be loaded in their own plugin space, effectively allowing us to bypass the 255 plugin cap so long as certain conditions within the plugin are met.

Finding Which Plugins are ESLable

If you are following along as a Journeyman, you can skip this process as I have already gone through and flagged all the included mods with the [ESLᴀʙʟᴇ] tag so you can simply follow the steps below the next header.

Figuring out which plugins can be easily flagged as ESL is simple, we just run a script in xEdit which will manually check for us. Start by loading in all your plugins in xEdit. Then right-click the left-side plugin list and select “Apply Script…”

In the dialogue box that appears, type “find esp plugins” in the filter box to locate the “Find ESP plugins which could be turned into ESL” script in the drop down list. Then hit OK to run.

After the script finishes running, the Messages window will display all the plugins that have the potential to be flagged as ESL. We’re only looking for are the ones that say “Can be turned into ESL by adding ESL flag in TES4 header”. Compacting form IDs requires you to load any other plugins which depend on it. So we’ll avoid doing that for now. Also make sure that there is no Cell warning present.

Flagging Plugins as ESLs

This process is really straightforward. First, simply load the plugin or plugins that you need to flag as ESLs in xEdit. Ignore the modgroups window. When xEdit finishes loading, find the plugin in the left hand plugin list and click on it. In this example I am using SkyUI. Find the “Record Flags row” and right-click the empty cell then select edit. Select “Yes I’m absolutely sure” in the popup window and tick the ESL option, then hit OK.

That’s it. You can now hit Ctrl + S to save the plugin or close out of the application and save on the prompt then.

Modding Post Update

For the purposes of this Modlist, “Modding Post Update” refers to the somewhat chaotic period of modding when the current Special Edition and SKSE64 versions for this Modlist are mismatched with the latest. You can check this by scrolling to the top of the landing page and looking at the “Latest” SSE and SKSE64 versions (not the ones listed after “For:”). If either or both of these are red, that means we are in a “Modding Post Update” period. Note that I will update version info as soon as it changes so you can always guarantee it’s up-to-date.

Journeymen & Evokers

So what does this mean for you? Well frankly a few things, the most important of which is that if you are a Journeyman or Evoker you MUST make sure that you have the correct Skyrim Special Edition and SKSE64 versions installed. To find out how to revert SSE to an older version, read the “More Info” section under [BʀᴇᴀᴋsOɴUᴘᴅᴀᴛᴇ]. As for SKSE64, you can download old versions from the “archived builds” link on the main SKSE page as seen below. You will have to choose the correct version to download from the list according to the “For” version at the top of this page.

The other thing this means for Journeymen and Evokers, is that you may have to do a little more searching for the correct Nexus download in the “Files” tab as many mod authors will quickly update their mods and put the versions required for this guide in “Old Versions” or in the worst case; remove old versions completely. Moral of the story here is that you should always cross check the “Current Version:” of this guide with the version you’re downloading from actual mod’s page.

Wizards

If you’re a Wizard, you will have to do a little more critical thinking here and make sure that mod versions you download match your SKSE64 version and SSE version if you’ve made the call to update these prior to this modlist updating them. The mods you want to pay most attention to are those that are SKSE plugins are as those are the most likely to need updates post new SSE version but you should not necessarily exclude others. In short, just take great care and always keep track of your version compatibility.

Creating Separators

As we add more and more mods to our modlist, it will quickly become long, cluttered and difficult to navigate. A good way to combat this is through the use of separators. I like to have 3 ‘tiers’ so to speak, a separator for the module, a separator for the category and a separator for the subcategory. All in different colors. As you can see in the example image below, my module separator is blue, my category separator is green and my subcategory separator is left the default transparent. I also include chronological ordering in brackets so I remember which location everything belongs. I suggest you take the same or similar approach to the one I am using.

Creating a separator in MO2 is extremely easy. Simply hit the screwdriver and wrench drop down just above your modlist and select “Create Separator”.

From there type its name and hit “OK”.

To change its color, rename or remove it; simply right click it.

Ready to Continue?

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1) Essentials