Yo so I am not the ultimate authority on this, and most of what I've learned is via trial and error, so if you run into trouble, hit online tutorials. Please bear with me if I explain basic stuff you already know.BEFORE YOU DOWNLOAD ANY MODS:
- Install Skyrim through Steam
- I dunno how else one would play PC Skyrim, so if there's any difference between Steam and Not Steam, I don't know what it might be. Consider all my advice to be predicated on using it through your Steam account.
- If you don't have the DLCs—Hearthfire, Dragonborn, and Dawnguard—I highly recommend them.
- Install Creation Kit through Steam
- Creation Kit is primarily used for making one's own mods, but having it can be useful even if you're just playing; there are tweaks you can do to other people's mods that can improve and/or customize your setup, and which are relatively simple to do (such as switching which equipment slot a piece of clothing or jewelry uses, so that you can wear two things at the same time that you otherwise couldn't). You don't actually need CK, but if you do decide to download it for the above reasons, I can do an additional short guide to doing aforementioned tweaks.
- Download and Install These Things, In This Order: Nexus Mod Manager, LOOT (stable), TES5Edit
- These are for managing your mods (manual installing is a bitch and manual uninstalling is the only actual evil on this earth), cleaning your master files (makes the game run better and prevents some mod conflicts), and making sure your load order is optimal (bad load order can do anything from causing weird overlap, lag, or annoyance in-game, to causing instant crash-to-desktop when you try to start up Skyrim).
- When you've installed Nexus Mod Manager, right click on the shortcut and select "Run as Administrator." (Alternatively, right click on the shortcut, select Properties->Compatibility, and check "Run this program as an Administrator.") A tutorial for using it is here but it's pretty straightforward.
- Go to This Video and Do the Thing: Skyrim Mod Tool TES5EDIT : Cleaning your master files (REVISED) (sorry for apparent irritation due to droning narrator)
- This is a very thorough and easy-to-follow guide for cleaning the Skyrim master files. It doesn't take much time. The game's master files have a lot of duplicate records and whatnot, which don't impact how it runs unless you're going to use mods.
- Download and Install SKSE
- This is a script extender for Skyrim that many mods require in order to function. Install it through NMM.
This is your basic setup for playing with mods. Do all your further mod downloading through NMM, as it's safest and most stable. Every time you install or uninstall mods, you should run LOOT last thing before you start the game.ESSENTIAL MODS:
- There are great number of mods that require SkyUI in order to function; additionally, it's a huge improvement for mouse-and-keyboard users for accessing and organizing your in-game inventory. There is basically no downside to this mod unless you inexplicably hate the way it looks.
- Skyrim: High Resolution Texture Pack (Free DLC) on Steam
- These are the official high-resolution packs, and even if you end up using other graphics mods, this one's a pretty good base.
- Unofficial Skyrim Patches
- This is an ongoing mod project that corrects hundreds of glitches that you might otherwise run into in-game. A little down the page there are links to the Unofficial Patches for all the DLC as well.
After this point, other mods depend on what you want to do with your game. There are tons of mods that increase realism and immersion, and there are just as many screwy-ass mods that do things like turn all the dragons in the game into Thomas the Tank Engine
or Macho Man Randy Savage
. I'll include a list of the mods I'm running, though, if you'd like somewhere to start. Past that, peruse Nexus and love your Google.
AS A SIDE NOTE, I'm told you're worried about viruses from 3rd-party mods. If you use Nexus Mod Manager for all your mods, you should be fine; Nexus screens all file uploads for that and updates pretty regularly on their protection. I've not had an issue yet. Keep your antivirus shit up to date, etc.
MODS I USE RIGHT NOW:
NOTE: I've obviously redone this, and I did so with an eye towards a starting game on a mid- to low-performance machine (no offense meant to your rig, just don't know the specs). These are the settings I use on my low-end graphics card, to maximize framerate without borking the graphics. At the end, there's a list of mods that I've downloaded but have currently disabled, pending a graphics card that can handle them better.
Here is some additional stuff that helped me get smoothest gameplay with minimal graphic loss: SkyrimPrefs.ini
The FIRST link has a copy of my SkyrimPrefs.ini file. This file is located on your computer, after installing Skyrim, at Documents -> My Games - > Skyrim. The manual tweaks I've made are intended to increase fps and minimize process load. I HIGHLY recommend that you make a backup of your own SkyrimPrefs.ini file before putting mine in. I edited mine based on suggestions in this link
The SECOND link to SkyrimEditorPrefs.ini is only for if you downloaded Creation Kit; it enables you to actually edit the official DLCs or use any of the assets from them. If you don't make the changes to this file that I did, Creation Kit will crash when you attempt to load more than just the basic vanilla game files. The filepath for this file depends on your installation folder for the game, but it should be something close to C: -> Program Files (x86) -> Steam -> SteamApps -> common -> Skyrim. This filepath also takes you to the Data folder, which will contain all your installed mods, official DLCs, and main game files.
This is super useful to know even if you don't have Creation Kit. I suggest making a shortcut on your desktop to your Data folder.Super Useful Console Command
: Hit the (~) key when in-game, and type set timescale to 10
. This makes it so instead of twenty minutes passing in-game for every one minute, only ten will pass. You can set the timescale even lower if you prefer, but the absolute lowest you can safely go is 2. I personally use 5. A list of other useful console commands is here
.Audio, Sounds, and MusicCity, Farm, and Town AlterationsCompanions, Marriage Partners, and FollowersConvenience ModsCustom Player Homes and RebuildsCustom Weapons, Equipment, and ApparelEconomy TweaksEnvironmental, Lighting, and FX TweaksHair, Face, and Body AlterationsMap and Quest MarkersModels and TexturesMounts and HorsesNew and Custom AnimationsNew Lands and DungeonsNew VendorsPatches and Bug FixesQuest Tweaks and OverhaulsRealism and ImmersionSkill and Perk AlterationsTravel-Friendly World AlterationsUtilities
MODS I AM WAITING TO USE:
My graphics card/computer setup in general is apparently middling-poor for Skyrim. Ergo, there are lots of graphic improvement mods and script-heavy mods I can only run at the cost of smooth gameplay. You can experiment with adding these for your own and see where you balance out best.Convenience Mods (Disabled)Economy Tweaks (Disabled)Environmental, Lighting, and FX Tweaks (Disabled)Hair, Face, and Body Alterations (Disabled)Models and Textures (Disabled)Quest Tweaks and Overhauls (Disabled)Realism and Immersion (Disabled)