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Essential Skyrim Mods Guide

Skyrim Mods

GND-Tech Presents: Essential Skyrim Mods!

Okay. With this guide we’ll be showing you what Skyrim mods to get in order to make Skyrim a much more beautiful and enjoyable experience! We’ll go over mods that will make Skyrim look better than real life….mods that will enhance the gameplay…and mods that aren’t really needed, but just fun or cool to have.Installing mods is easy! Most of them are just dragged and dropped into your Skyrim\Data folder, but always read the README file included with the mod. It has that name for a reason.Skyrim mods typically include ESM, ESP, and/or BSA files. They will often include a meshes, textures, and/or scripts folder as well. You don’t need a fomod folder when manually installing mods. All of these things are to be dragged and dropped into your Skyrim\Data folder. If a mod only comes with a Data folder, that goes into your main Skyrim folder, merging with the Data folder already in there.

Manual installation is always the safest route. Ignore other guides that list hundreds of incompatible mods and tell you to use Nexus Mod Manager, as this is what leads to problems. Manual installation is just drag and drop, anyone can do it. BOSS autosort is worth a try, but usually doesn’t get it right. For load order help, read the readme file with included mods. But essentially, ESM files should be at the top of the load order (when clicking on Data Files in the Skyrim launcher, or in Skyrim Mod manager), and all ESP files below it. At the bottom of the load order you should have Realistic Water Two and related compatibility patches, with RCRN right above it.

For some gameplay videos using these mods, look here.


Console Commands

The console is a developer/debugging tool that is activated by pressing the tilde key (between Escape and TAB). Doing this pauses the game and allows the player to enter commands, by simply typing them and hitting enter. You can find pretty much every console command here, but here I’ll list the most useful and convenient ones. Most of them do NOT have to be entered every time you play the game.

  • fov <number value> – This controls the field of view. Default field of view is around 70-75, which is a good number. Lots of people use 90 since it lets you see more on screen, but this gives you a fish-eye view, looks unrealistic, and takes away from immersion. Such a field of view is only for games like Counter Strike. I recommend 70. Here’s how I use this command: fov 70
  • set timescale to <number value> – This controls the time scale, or how fast/slow time passes. Default is 20, which means one real minute is equal to 20 in-game minutes. I prefer to set it to 5, like so: set timescale to 5
  • setscale <number value> – This controls the scale of an object. 1 is the default scale for everything. So setting this value to 2, for example, doubles the object’s size. This must be used after first clicking on an object while the console is opened. If you want to change the player scale, use this: player.setscale 1.1. Note that 1.1 is just an example. This makes your character significantly taller. Increasing your size also increases movement speed (naturally) and strength.
  • coc <cell ID> – This stands for Center on Cell. Using this combined with a cell ID (which can be found on Skyrim’s wikia website) teleports you to a new location.
  • tcl – This enables/disables collisions, or no-clipping as people call it. Entering it once enables no-clipping (or disables collisions, same thing), while entering it again enables collisions. This is useful for if you get stuck between some objects and can’t move.
  • tfc 0/1– Toggles free-fly camera. This command is used to set up screenshots. tfc 1 pauses the game and lets you float around as a spectator. tfc 0 returns you to your body and unpauses the game.
  • tm – Removes all menu interfaces. To get the menus back, just enter the command again.
  • player.placeatme baseid – This command places an object or creature in front of you. I personally use this to spawn creatures, pit them against each other, watch them fight and make bets. To use this command, combine player.placeatme with a base ID in the same line, then enter it. Base ID’s can be found on Skyrim’s wikia website.


Skyrim Script Extender

Also known as SKSE, Skyrim Script Extender is a simple install that enables unique features for certain mods, and some mods like SkyUI require it.




I’ll go over all sorts of graphical mods on this page, all the way from full on Texture mods to Lighting Overhaul mods! Keep in mind that if you want to run all of these mods at a 1920 x 1080 or larger, you will need a video card with at least 2GB of VRAM. If you have less than this amount, eventually your FPS will drop to a single digit. You can delay this by using the console command pcb every few minutes, but it can only be delayed for so long.*Click the images to view full size!

Skyrim 2k Texture Mod by Nebula1

This mod is a huge mod which is in the process of redoing every texture in Skyrim and making it 4-8x better than it’s stock counterpart! This mod will make the average look extraordinary! Right now it covers every landscape texture, Windhelm, Whiterun, and Solitude. It’s still WIP so more and more is being added in each update! Beware this is for top end PCs!


RCRN HDR- Realistic Colors and Real Nights by aLaa

This mod is a lot more powerful than it seems, it will transform Skyrim into a seriously beautiful game. It totally redoes the lighting and coloring of the game, making for much brighter days, beautiful sunsets and sun rises, dark nights and best of all..Dark Dungeons! This mod even makes most of the armors look much nicer due to the special plugins it has. This mod is a serious must have because it does all this without much of an FPS drop.

Check out many of the options RCRN has to offer.

High Resolution Dragon Textures by frozunswaidon

High Res Face Maps for Men by Geonox

This mod may not seem like much but it takes the facial detail in Skyrim to the next level! With this mod, all male characters get extremely detailed face maps…You will be able to see their pores…Wrinkles are more defined and you can even see the facial stubble. It also evens out the Normal Map so you’re not left with a blocky nose. This is one mod you’ll just have to try for your self, it’s another must have for me!

Skyrim Flora Overhaul by Vurt

Vurt is a famous TeS modder who has been giving us beautiful Flora since Morrowind and his legacy hasn’t stopped. He’s back in Skyrim with an amazing flora overhaul which gives the grass, trees and shrubs a much needed retexture! All the grass and trees(and trunks) have been retextured with totally new textures at a higher resolution. The trunks are also randomized so not every tree looks the same. This mod will seriously improve your visuals and it comes in a high res and low res package so it’s good for any PC!

Lush Trees and Grass by OpticShooter

This mod increases the grass density for a more realistic look. Perfectly compatible with Flora Overhaul, and using the two together yields spectacular results.

Alternate Rocks and Mountains by Benjamin318

This mod replaces rock and mountain textures with much higher res ones… up to 8192 x 8192!

High Realistic Tundra Moss by Hein84

New textures for tundra moss. A must have.

Enhanced Blood Textures by dDefinder1

You may think at first, “Oh this is just a blood mod”. Well it may just be a blood mod, but it does more than just make the blood look extremely pretty. This mod obviously retextures all the blood to make it much higher resolution, stock blood in Skyrim is almost embarrassing. But there’s more! It also makes the blood react properly to different surfaces and even makes blood splatter onto your character and others. Blood is so bad in Skyrim so this mod is a MUST.

Hectrol Caves Deluxe by Hectrol

This small but necessary redoes some of the awful-looking dungeon textures that the other texture mods don’t improve. 100% compatible with all the other texture mods.

Improved NPC Clothing by BaronDavid

This is a simple mod but it really does wonders. If you’ve been playing Skyrim without it…You’ve probably noticed how all the clothing is a blurry mess…this fixes that. Now clothing is at a much higher resolution and actually looks like the fabric it is. A tightly woven robe will look tightly woven…A leather vest over a shirt will look like leather…This mod makes it looks nice to walk around in regular clothing. Be sure to download the INCPP Expansion aswell!

Realistic Water Two by isoku

As you can probably tell from the title, this mod gives the water in Skyrim a much needed make over. It replaces Skyrim’s ugly water texture with a high resolution texture taken from real life photography. It also adjusts the flow of water and makes it more realistic. Compatibility patches for all DLC, Realistic Needs and Diseases, Wyrmstooth, and Falskaar included.

SkyFalls and SkyMills by SjoertJanson

This mod makes distant waterfalls and windmills actually move like they should. Install it after WATER.

Windmills Resized by pfaffendrill

This simple mod resizes windmills around Skyrim, making them more authentic.

aMideanBorn Book of Silence

This mod aims to retexture all default weapons and armor in Skyrim. It isn’t finished yet but has gone quite far.

Re-Defined Dungeons by gizmomzig

Another stunning mod here. This mod totally redoes each dungeon texture and makes it 2048×2048. If you enjoy dungeon crawling you’re going to want to pick up this mod, I highly recommend it! It’s still WIP so keep an eye open for updates.

AOF Believable Hair by AnOldFriend

This is a small mod but it takes Skyrim’s hair (Male and Female) and makes it not look like a mess of spaghetti! Check out the screenshots and see if you like them!

Ultimate HD Fire Spells by rheadude

This mod revises most fire textures for a more realistic appearance. Install before SMIM.

Static Mesh Improvement Mod (SMIM) by Brumbek

This mod improves the look of hundreds or even thousands of static meshes. A must have for sure. Install it after SMIM, and overwrite.

Book Covers Skyrim by doccdr

A simple mod that makes all book covers unique and HD.

HD Detailed Terrain by Soolie

This mod greatly enhances distant terrain, using 2k and 4k textures.

Distant Decal Fix by SparrowPrince

This mod fixes problems relating to decal fade.

Distant Detail – Hearthfire Edition by Kazoomie and Dovahsbane

This mod is similar to Enhanced Distant Terrain but does not conflict. It improves the look of distant terrain. If you don’t have Hearthfire for some reason, get this one. You cannot use both at the same time.

Skyrim Realistic Texture Overhaul – Dragonborn by Frozunswaidon

This texture pack is built for the Dragonborn DLC. Install it after all other texture mods, and do not overwrite anything.

So that’s all the mods for the graphics section so far.

Now I will go over some simple ways to make your game look better without modding it!

Alright, we’ll start with .INI tweaks!

Navigate to your My Documents/My Games/Skyrim folder and find SkyrimPrefs.ini
You’ll want to change these values to 1

Now add these lines to the bottom of your .ini file if they are not there already. I’m not sure these are necessary if you’re using the water mod but I don’ think it hurts.

Also you can change Anistropic Filtering to 16x in the NCP to get much better water draw distance.

Okay that’s it for INI tweaks. Now we’ll explain how to enable Ambient Occlusion in Skyrim. Normally, for NVIDIA cards, all you have to do is right click on your desktop, select NVIDIA Control Panel, and set ambient occlusion to enabled. For ambient occlusion quality, use either Performance or Quality (depending on which gives you the desired frame rate, test in game).

For those wanting more advanced tweaking, you’ll want to download a program called Nvidia Inspector (a Google search should show you the DL link). Make sure you have the latest drivers too!

Launch NVIDIA Inspector, click the icon shown in the red box.
Choose the Skyrim profile.
For compatibility, choose the setting that has Skyrim listed in the name. Then go to Common, and make sure ambient occlusion is Enabled. This program lets you choose three different ambient occlusion settings, namely Performance, Quality, and High Quality.

You should be able to tell ingame if Ambient Occlusion is on or not. Ambient Occlusion really adds a lot to the visual quality of Skyrim so I would really recommend doing this, but do note it is slightly intensive, so if you’re struggling to play Skyrim…this may not be for you.

That is all for the Graphics Section! Next up is Gameplay.


The following mods affect the gameplay of Skyrim, so here you’ll see things like new armor, spells, weapon packs. We will only post relatively smaller mods that don’t affect game balance. But before going over mods, lets first look at INI tweaks relating to gameplay. Browse to C:\Users\Name\My Documents\My Games\Skyrim, where Admin is the main account on your computer. Open SkyrimPrefs.ini. Here you can edit various things that affect graphics and gameplay. In this section we’re focused on the latter. So for those who want to disable mouse smoothing, find the Controls section and set bMouseAcceleration to 0. Here you can also disable VSync, and to do this, add iPresentInterval=0 to the bottom. Now lets move onto mods.

Midas Magic by Xilver.

This mod adds over 60 unique spell types! See below for more information.

Better Shrouded Armor by Half-Dead

As the title says, a replacement for male shrouded armor (Dark Brotherhood). Use if you aren’t a big fan of the default one. The model from this armor is the assassin armor from The Witcher 2.

Matys Knights of the Nine Armor Mod by Maty743

This modification adds multiple new Knights of the Nine armor sets for males. It can be crafted under the Steel armor set. It has a distinctive appearance and it is a great way to make one of your characters take the look of a noble crusader or Knight.

Nordic Conqueror Armor by frankdema

This mod adds a unique piece of armor to the game, but you have to work to get it.

Bosmer Armor Pack by maty743

An excellent, lore-friendly Wood Elf armor set. What’s not to like?

Wanderer Cuirass by Frank and Cabal

Another impressive armor set from two of the best.

DreamBurrows Regal Huntsman Armor by DreamBurrow

Another awesome customer armor set.

Stormlord Armor by gechbal

A really impressive armor set that would work well for battlemages.

Specialized Followers by Kevin Kidder.

Click the link and read more. So much information and it’s all there, but basically it gives every follower unique capabilities. Some of them are amazing, some are rather strange but nonetheless impressive!

General Fixes to Followers by Remanik Setero.

The name pretty much tells you what it does, the link does more. It adds a few things to followers as well as a list of much needed fixes. This mod is a must have if you are interested in having followers.

Weapons of the Third Era by 747823

This is one of the earlier great weapon packs for Skyrim. A must have.

Crossbows: Basic Collection by DJjojo

This mod adds a huge number of Crossbows to the game, such as Daedric (a variant shown below), Dragonbone, Orcish, Elven, Ebony, you name it. You can make and find every kind of Bolt as well, and NPCs will now use Crossbows.

Jaysus Swords by Jaysus

An amazing set of 60+ new swords for you to craft. They are distributed to Leveled lists and loot though some of them are unique and can only be found in certain places. All these weapons are beautifully modeled and are high resolution. You seriously need to download these, this author has some talent!

Multiple Followers by Foobar29

This was one of my most anticipated mods…It enables Multiple Followers in Skyrim!

It’s pretty self explanatory, but remember to read the installation instructions.

Monster Mod by dogtown1, edited by Ironman5000

Alternate link to previous version

Make sure you use the lore version, to avoid lore breaking creatures.

Dwemer Spectres

An awesome mod that adds Dwemer spectres to Dwemer ruins, like Morrowind.

Character Creation Overhaul by syclonix

This awesome mod adds in the classic classes and birthsigns from previous TES games, chosen during character creator. It also gives races more unique attributes.

Skyrim Unbound by chinagreenelvis

Only use this if you’ve completed the main campaign already. This is an advanced alternate start mod that works through MCM (which is included in SKSE). You can choose a random starting point or a more specific one, and choose a class that determines your starting equipment.

Wet and Cold by isoku

This awesome mod adds new effects for when the player and NPCs are exposed to water/rain and snow. These effects range from visual wet or frosty effects, to first person effects (vision blur). This mod can also affect NPC behavior; their eyesight can be reduced during blizzards. If you choose to use it with SKSE and Frostfall, NPCs will equip appropriate equipment for storms. NPCs can also be set to return home during a storm. All of this can be tweaked in-game.

Frostfall and Campfire – Complete Campfire System by Chesko

Another great mod for Roleplayers, this makes weather and temperature a factor in your survival while traveling the wilds of Skyrim. Beware of cold water and blizzards, you will die! Read the page to find out more, it’s pretty comprehensive. This isn’t for everyone as it’s very hardcore.

Realistic Needs and Diseases by perseid9

In-depth realism overhaul, adding the need to eat, hydrate, sleep, while overhauling diseases to make them more realistic. Best of all, all of this is customizable through SkyUI’s mod configuration menu!

Omegared99- Armor Compilation by Omegared99

Amazing collection of armor sets. They have been added to the leveled list so you can find pieces on bandits and in loot. Check out the mod page for more pictures of all the armors! This is a must have!

Immersive Weapons by hothtrooper44

A very good custom weapon collection, made by the same creator as Immersive Armors. Note that if you try to use both, you’ll find that both include a SPIKE.esm file. They are the same thing, so no conflict here.

Immersive Armors by hothtrooper44

An amazing compilation of various armor mods by many authors. It makes sure to remain very lore friendly and the author of this mod has made them all craft able and most have been added to leveled lists. This has recently become a must have mod for Skyrim!

Cloaks of Skyrim by Nikinoodles

This mod adds all sorts of cloaks to Skyrim. Perfectly compatible with Frostfall. Wet and Cold can actually implement these, if you use SKSE (highly recommended).

aMideanBorn Textures for Immersive Armors

This mod aims to retexture the armors added by Immersive Armors (right above this mod). It requires Immersive Armors and aMideanBorn’s Book of Silence.

Immersive Patrols by Scrabbulor

This mod adds all sorts of new NPCs to the game, making the world more populated as it should be. Consoles held back the amount of NPCs in the world, this mod aims to lessen those restrictions.

Inconsequential NPCs by ripple

This is another mod that adds many new NPCs and improves NPC diversity.


Misc. mods don’t really affect gameplay or visuals, but include things like fixes or other cool addons.

SkyUI by schlangster

A very popular mod that revamps Skyrim’s interface into an even better one. Compared to the original, it benefits from MUCH greater customization if you have SKSE installed, and has a search function (not that you should be carrying hundreds of items…).

Enhanced Animation by L0rdOfWar

This mod improves and adds lots of new animations for a more immersive experience.

RBE’s Enhanced 1st Person Camera Bob by rberdo

This is a simple mod that improves headbob for a more realistic look. Standard version is recommended.

Realistic Ragdolls and Force by dDefinder1

A necessary mod that improves ragdolls and physics.

House Map Markers by Smakit.

Once again, a self-explanatory but very useful mod. It makes available houses show up on your map. Once discovered, you may quick travel to them.

Followers can relax by KingCoin

This mod allows followers to relax when you tell them to wait instead of awkwardly standing there!

The Dance of Death – by DaedalusAI

This mod adds lots of brutal new killmoves. Not much more to say, is there? Check it out.

Skyrim Crash Prevention by scion1122.

This mod is exactly what I’ve been waiting for. It automatically purges the memory cache in Skyrim, before those with a lot of mods would have to manually type in pcb into the console but thanks to this mod that is no longer needed. .

Player Headtracking by Maegfaer

This mod enables headtracking for the player, like you see on other NPCs. This means your character will automatically look at people he’s talking to, and other things you’d normally look at. Great for immersion.

Guard Dialogue Overhaul by Eck

This is a simple mod that enables some never before heard Guard dialogues.



This page is dedicated to larger mods that add new quests to Skyrim. Most of these have new locations as well, but don’t worry, you can still play Skyrim normally.

Chrysamere by Thebigmuh

The best sword in the game, it’s a unique 2 Handed Sword Artifact from Morrowind times.
It also gives you a short but challenging quest to retrieve it. The quest is worth the download!

ThirteenOranges’ Quest series by ThirteenOranges

I’ve linked you to all of the work by ThirteenOranges. He has put together a number of amazing quests and new locations. Give them a try! Due note that these can make your game unstable.

Moonpath to Elsweyr by muppetpuppet

This mod adds a number of new locations as well as a new quest line. You’ll find many interesting new creatures here, and the new locations are very atmospheric.

Helgen Reborn by Mike Hancho

A lengthy quest that will take you all around Skyrim in order to rebuild the lost city of Helgen. Very well done and highly recommended.

Falskaar by AlexanderJVelicky

This is one of the most popular quest mods, so it’s definitely worth trying.


Wyrmstooth is a large scale quest mod that’s very popular and very well done.

This mod guide is not final and it will continue to be updated with the latest and greatest, non-game breaking mods. Keep in touch for more.

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