Picture the scene. You’ve been walking towards the landmark city of Whiterun from Falkreath to the South. So far your journey hasn't thrown up anything interesting, save for some stunning views of Lake Ilinalta. Suddenly, something to the West catches your eye . You sneak over, bow in hand and, passing over a ridge, you’re greeted with the following scene. A bear rears up to its full height, repeatedly singing ‘I’m a bear!’ in an auto-tuned voice. Pink mudcrabs daubed with Zoidberg's face scuttle around the bear, distressing it further. 'Oh yeah, I'm a bear', the beast continues, while a naked female hunter approaches from the road and starts raining giant pink dildo arrows down on the pair.
No, you haven’t wandered onto the set of Skyrim’s weirdest porno, you’re simplying enjoying the fruits of the Skyrim modding community's labours. If you own the PC version of the game (and you really should) then thanks to the imagination of Elder Scrolls lovers, alongside strong support from the developers themselves, you can now dress up Skyrim in pretty much whatever outfit you can imagine – from armour crafted from the tears of vampires to frilly white lingerie.
Sifting through the online treasure trove that is the Skyrim Nexus (which houses all the tweaks) for something that has been perfectly crafted to your needs can be an arduous task, and with thousands upon thousands of mods available for download, some of the most impressive offerings might just pass you by. Luckily, I’m here to showcase some of the mods that you simply cannot afford to go without. This is by no means an exhaustive list but everything on it is guaranteed to enhance your Skyrim experience, or your septims back!
(Note: to download all these mods use the Nexus Mod Manager – see THIS video for full, easy to digest, instructions).
There's something fishy happening in Skyrim, and it's not that seared slaughterfish you had for lunch. As you walk around, you're constantly reminded that there's a civil war going on. This is puzzling. Here you are, in a land supposedly gripped by a devastating struggle between two foes with an unquenchable thirst for each other's blood, and yet the only one causing any destruction in this idyllic icy world, it seems, is you. This is one of the main gripes gamers had with Skyrim: the war that is, in some way, the centrepiece of the game, never really comes alive and it's partly because you don't really get to see the two sides fighting each other in a meaningful way.
This mod corrects that, and then some, adding thousands of really pissed NPCs spawning over hundreds of dynamic battlefields. In addition to fights in pre scripted areas, the mod gives you the option of having random skirmishes that could pop up just about anywhere (this is, in my opinion, its best feature). All of the battles are completely dynamic: each side will react differently to you depending on your standing with their faction. And it’s not just bog standard Stormcloaks and Imperials that want to tear each other apart: Bandits, Thalmor, skeletons and many more will all want a piece of the action. Best of all, this mod is completely customisable: you can adjust the number of enemies that spawn, turn random skirmishes on or off, and even add animals into the mix. If it's war you want, then this mod will give it to you in great big bloody lumps.
(Note - original mod has been discontinued but can be downloaded from the link above).
Morrowloot turns the business of finding high-level objects into an art. It completely replaces Skyrim's drab levelled loot system with one that is both more immersive and more challenging. Pretty much every piece of random loot is gone, as is the ability to craft high level items (yeah, I know, suck it up you big smithing softie). Instead, loot is hand placed around the world in a completely logical, natural way: Thalmor carry Elven weapons and armour, Orcs carry the Orcish equivalents, and Dwemer equipment is found exclusively at Dwemer ruins, while the best loot (of the Ebony and Daedric variety) is, as it should be, extremely hard to come by.
Pretty much every piece of random loot is gone, as is the ability to craft high level items (yeah, I know, suck it up you big smithing softie)
Morrowloot also adds in a dozen or so artefacts that those who have played Morrowind will be familiar with, such as the oh-so-cool Boots of Blinding speed and Stendarr's Hammer, the power of which will send your enemies flying all the way to Timbuktu (or the Tamriellien equivalent). Whilst it might feel like this mod takes a lot away from you, it compensates with a more realistic, natural loot system that will completely change the way you play. The fact that items are hidden throughout the world means you'll explore every nook and cranny of the deepest dungeon to find the best gear, and when you do it feels so much more rewarding.
An idea so good that Bethesda expected you to pay for it in the Hearthfire DLC package, this mod allows you to build and customise your own humble – or not so humble – abode for the low price of a few mouse clicks. This really showcases everything that is great about Skyrim's mods: they give you something for free that you would be willing to pay for, and more often than not they're crafted with more care and quality than their more official, costly counterparts.
Gamers are notoriously picky when it comes to their virtual living quarters and this mod caters to every possible need both inside and out; whether you want a fully pimped out fortress with all the trimmings, a cosy wooden shack or a clean building that screams religious piety, Build Your Own Home has you covered. Simply download it and let your inner Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen soar to new snowy heights.
Dovahkiin is pretty amazing isn’t he? He can cut through skeleton armies single-handedly, slay swathes of angry Stormcloaks with a few sweeps of his two handed axe and even absorb the souls of dragons. If there is one thing he fears, however, it is the occupied doorway. Confronted with one, he has no choice but to stand around awkwardly for a few minutes waiting for his follower friend, who stares blankly at him, to spot a nearby mudcrab and wander off to engage is some crustacean crucifixion. Only then can he make his way over the threshold and sleep off all that pent up social tension.
Only then can he make his way over the threshold and sleep off all that pent up social tension.
No longer shall the Dragonborn live in fear. This mod is very simple, and yet for those who enjoy taking followers along for the ride, it cuts out a great deal of frustration. It vastly increases the distance that you can 'bump' your companions by running into them; previously, it was virtually impossible to get your buddies to move more than a few inches in any direction, no matter how hard you sprinted headlong into them. Now, running into your adventuring pals will cause them to take a few good strides back, leaving you with space to manoeuvre through even the tightest of underground lairs. Problem solved.
Some mods are no more than slight adjustments. An extra weapon here, a few textures there: they'll fill their niche nicely, but they won't add a great deal of depth to Skyrim's wonderfully designed world. Interesting NPCs is cut from a completely different cloth. It adds over 100 unique characters to the game, each with their own back story and extensive dialogue options including location sensitive conversations. It's an antidote to the generally colourless palate that paints Skyrim's NPCs, turning dull, one line conversations with forgettable travellers into meandering life stories that will have you buying round after round of bottled Nord Mead.
The scope of this mod is staggering. You'll hear voices from 40 separate actors and 250,000 words of new dialogue, have the chance to recruit 18 new followers and the option to embark on a smattering of new quests. Each new NPC, as promised by the name, is genuinely interesting: the dialogue is superbly written, sprinkled with humour, and completely lore-friendly. They're all integrated perfectly into the game in a way that makes sense: talkative bards ply their trade at Skyrim's many inns and burly Orcs attempt to impress you by totting up the thousands of heads that they've claimed to date. With this mod installed, you'll actually start to care about the characters you meet on your epic journey.
If you liked this list check out this article for 5 more mods to seek your teeth into.