We all know that you didn’t buy Skyrim on the PC so you could bugger around on vanilla, following the Winterhold mage guild quest-line like good little boys and girls. You got it so that you could mod the fuck out of it. As fun as it is, the vanilla experience of Skyrim just lacks a certain something in many gamers’ eyes. For some, it’s the absence of nudity, for others, the immortal children. For yet others, it’s the disturbing lack of My Little Pony characters. We here at WASDuk have been playing Skyrim pretty much solidly since release, and think it’s about time we added our own recommendations to the mix. There are bigger, more expansive, and even more impressive mods out there. But these are the ones that we feel make Skyrim a better place to adventure in.
10. Fire and Ice Overhaul
Vanilla Skyrim, like most RPGs out there, is hugely disappointing on the magic front. There’s just no point going mage unless you get some pretty impressive spells to play with, to make up for the fact that you have as much use in combat as the average LARPer. When we wandered around towns, and guards told us not to burn down any buildings, we thought they must have been taking the piss. For try as we might, the anaemic little flames that we conjured didn’t so much as worry the chickens. Mages are like the mouthy short guy of the land of Skyrim. They talk a big game, but they’re only one hammer-blow from being a bundle of free robes.
Until the Fire and Ice Overhaul, that is. With this mod, we found ourselves actually afraid to use even novice destruction spells anywhere but a wide, open field. It was a genuine concern whenever a stray assassin or group of thugs decided to take us on inside one of the holds. Frost spells create a persistent cluster of jagged icicles, blocking paths and doorways, and a stray flame can spread from building to building, creating a hellish firestorm in under a minute. This makes a simple magical encounter more reminiscent of a particularly devastating new year’s party at the napalm factory. It really does feel like being a mage is something to be feared, and that you hold the arcane flow of devastating magicka in your hands, rather than feeling ashamed to walk around Skyrim. Like that one guy at a Star Trek convention dressed as Wesley Crusher who’s getting laughed at and kicked around by a gang of Worfs.
9. Unlimited Bookshelves
We’re not normally one to go gooey over these little interior decoration mods, but holy shit, if books haven’t been the bane of our Elder Scrolls existence since Morrowind. Our first memories of Tamriel were of slyly picking up a copy of A Dance in Fire, and having every guard in Seyda Neen on our backs. When we got chased out of there faster than a child molester crudely disguised as a Mothercare ball pit, we swore never to pick up a book again, and immediately went back to Seyda Neen to see if we could pick up the rest of the collection. It’s not even like we read the damn things, but whether a gallant, heroic adventurer or sneaky, underhand assassin, our Skyrim characters ending up sharing the same fate. They are doomed to wander around the icy wastes with the contents of the imperial library stashed in every nook, cranny and crevice.
With Unlimited Bookshelves, this is far less of an issue. Before the mod, we could add a total of 18 books to a bookshelf, and were left with a strange, gappy mess that fell over as soon as they were placed, as if they’d been fired onto the shelves with a catapult. Thanks to Unlimited Bookshelves, they can now hold all those useless little notes you accumulate but don’t have the heart to discard, and any other items you can cram in there, too. By the end of a few months of adventure, we were pretty happy with the way they looked. Our copies of The Lusty Argonian maid (unread), sat happily in Breezehome next to a pile of notes about how the dark brotherhood were totally going to fuck us up, and they were all book-ended by a centurion dynamo core. Classy.
There’s nothing more annoying than getting reliant on an NPC, only to have them get roasted by a freak dragon attack, or fall off a cliff, or just show up dead suddenly, which happened to us when we found Adrianne Avenicci slumped over her forge for no particular reason. We felt bad about this, and not just because it was almost certainly our fault, but because she was useful. We used her forge, we sold her all our items, and she didn’t seem to mind us cheekily throwing our rubbish in the stream behind her smelter. Times were good. And now we’d have to go and deal with that asshole Belethor and constantly hear about how although some people perceive his items as junk, his own personal view is to refer to them as treasures. Well, fuck that. We’re the Dragonborn (sometimes, more on that later)! These people don’t die on our watch!
And that’s where the FCresurrect spell mod comes in. As far as the vanilla game is concerned, dead is dead. Once a character dies, that’s it. Loot the corpse, and move on, unless there’s something high for you to toss the body from, first. But with the resurrect spell, found at the College of Winterhold or Dragonsreach, you can now perform the ultimate restoration. Now Adrianne can keep on smithing forever! If you’re so inclined, you might want to slyly role-play some moral trauma over the new power you wield, or just take the time to repeatedly kill and resurrect Maven Black-Briar while nobody is looking. Strangely enough, everyone we resurrected came back from the dead wearing a fur hat, so we can only assume that they were somehow favoured by the lesser Daedric Lord of Caution, and told to “wrap up warm or you’ll catch a cold out there”.
7. The Vampire Royal Hood
It seems like such a good idea at the time to become a vampire. Skulking the night with a fresh dose of new powers, faster and stronger than the average mortal. Then the truth of it sets in, and you find out that you have to spend half your game waiting indoors for the sun to go down. After the sixth time we came out of a cave after a lengthy quest, only to realise that there’s a bright fucking noon-day sun out there, we were hit with the heftiest feeling of ‘buyer’s remorse’ since the Virtual Boy. Coupled with the fact that everyone kept giving the same line about how our eyes looked hungry, we decided it might be time to start bothering witches for a cure.
But wait? What if there was a mod that offered an item to give protection from the sun’s hateful rays? Some kind of, dare we say it, magic hat?
Well, the Vampire Royal Hood mod is close enough. It offers a fairly easy-to-craft hood that can be forged by any vampire who knows how to use an anvil, and protects the wearer from sun effects while also looking pretty nifty, and completing a vampire’s royal armour set. Sorted. Now, we can strut around with our ghastly, fanged heads raised high, safe in the knowledge that we don’t have to spend all the daylight hours crouched inside the Bannered Mare, listening to that idiot strangling his lute, and mumbling his way through Ragnar the Red.
6. Haven Bag
Having a well-stocked and well-appointed house is one of the nicer things about Skyrim. After a long, hard day dodging fireballs and shouting at stuff, it’s always nice to have a place to call home that contains all the spoils and trinkets we’ve gathered together over a lifetime of glorious (mis)deeds, and to take a nap surrounded by troll skulls. But it’s always a pain to find ourselves over-encumbered in the middle of a dungeon, and have to make that most painful of decisions; drop the Dwarven armour and trudge home, or slowly walk it back to the beginning of the dungeon, then drop it and go home?
Which is why we found the Haven Bag mod so bloody useful. It places a bag in your inventory which, once used, transports you to a pocket dimension inside itself full of chests, smithing equipment, an arcane enchanter, alchemy table and a bed. It can be used at any time, allowing the player to drop off all their stuff whenever they choose, before transporting them back to the action. We always felt bad using it in front of NPCs, so we’d always nip around a corner before disappearing inside a sack, but it was always satisfying to use it in the middle of battle, disappearing in the blink of an eye, only to reappear a second later, looking strangely rested and carrying a weapon that we didn’t have before. Usually, such a thing would feel more than a little game-breaking, but after spilling all our gold, jewels and precious items onto the floor of the haven bag, and spending a full twenty minutes frolicking in it, such concerns fled us faster than a mudcrab with a sense of self-preservation.
5. Better guard dialogue
If you’re anything like us, you’re awesome. And your Skyrim character reflects this, every time it wanders down the streets of Markarth, splattered with the blood of endless enemies, and looking resplendent in a full set of dragon armour, or fearsome in full Daedric get-up. The citizens quiver in our wake, and the guards all speak in hushed whispers, talking in reverent tones about our recent successes. Except they don’t. There’s always that one guard that will walk blithely in front of you, and utter the line:
“I got to thinking, maybe I’m the Dragonborn, and I just don’t know it yet..”
But you’re not, are you? Because I am. That’s why I’m walking around Markarth carrying enough weapons to equip a small mercenary army, and you’re stuck walking around in circles in one city, making the same fucking jokes about sweet rolls. Tch. And if we then kill said guard, WE get in trouble.
But the guards are always doing this. We just saved the world from Alduin’s draconic rage, and the only thing they’ve got to say is: “Disrespect the law, disrespect me”. Well, I hope you won’t take it the wrong way if I don’t piss myself in fear at the sight of your iron sword, sir. I just so happen to have that kind of voice. The kind that can literally TELL you to catch fire.
Guard Dialogue Overhaul, thankfully, changes this. Guards now treat the player with the respect (or disrespect) they deserve, as well as adding more dialogue to their available list of robotic banter. While they are as rude and demeaning as they can be to you when you are just starting out, as your character completes quests, there’s a definite difference in their attitudes towards you. Finally, when you become that legendary Dragonborn that Skyrim has been waiting for, they sometimes get too nervous to even attract your attention. As it should be.
4. Left-Hand Rings
As soon as we took up enchanting, we adopted the same ultimate goal that all enchanters share, and that is to pimp ourselves out in as much magical gear as we possibly could, and plough through anything that stood in our way. And when we reached the highest level of enchanting, this dream was mostly realised. Our armour level was so high that we wouldn’t be so much as scratched if a fully-grown dragon landed on us, and skeevers died of fear the second they came within a forty-foot radius of our awesome field. Unfortunately, as in real life, as powerful as we were, our left hands always let us down. It was as if we had some bizarre affliction forced upon us. Some kind of ‘Achilles hand’. Or perhaps, unbeknownst to us, the character’s left hand has some weird personality of its own, and hates the character, not wishing to add to their success.
But this is our character! Flaws, or unruly appendages shall not be tolerated!
With the Left-Hand Rings mod, this quirky peculiarity is no longer an issue, and as well as finding special left-handed rings in merchant inventories and treasure chests, they can also be crafted at a forge using the jewellery option. A number, but not all, of the enchanted rings can be crafted this way, and the mod goes some way to aiding us in our quest to be the most tricked-out character the land of Skyrim has ever seen.
3. Become a Bard
When we took time out of our busy adventuring schedule to join up with the Bard’s College, we did so for a very clear reason. When we travelled all around Skyrim finding drums and bits of old poems for people, the very least we expected was to become a proper bard when the party was all over and done with. But no. We didn’t become a bard. We were given free run of the bard’s college, a place we had already snuck around and stolen everything of value from before we even bothered talking to any of the members.
So, we are very thankful for the Become a Bard mod, which finally lets us feel the true power of the bardic art: standing in a tavern and playing pieces of music while people toss a few measly coins our way. The mod can be practised and levelled until the Jarls themselves delight in hearing you play, and the monetary rewards for your performances get substantially higher until you become the Skyrim equivalent of that chick who plays the piano that everyone seems to like. If you have a follower with you, they will play along too, and musical books are easily purchased from the Bard’s College.
Our favourite thing about this mod, apart from the fact that you can whip any instrument at any point and start playing, is the fact that you can add your own music files to your character’s repertoire, and giving a quick rendition of Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper” in the Winking Skeever made for a truly surreal experience. And we made 21 gold!
2. Your Market Stall
I’m sure you can picture the scene, having no doubt gone through it yourselves. Tired and sore from early adventures, we’d carry our sack of hard-earned items down to that robbing old bastard Ulfarth War-Bear in Whiterun, and he’d cast a beady little piggy eye over it all as if to say: “Yeah, we get a lot of Glass greatswords in here these days. Can’t shift ‘em at all”, before offering us 240 gold for the lot. Grudgingly, we’d accept, and in the next second, he’s selling it all for thousands, leaving us with a pittance, and the gnawing need to go out and adventure more to line his crooked pockets. And the items, rather than appearing in his store, would seemingly disappear between his greasy butt-cheeks, never to be seen again.
This is what makes Your Market Stall so great. Allowing the player to forge a small market stall that can be placed anywhere simply by dropping it means that not only can you go right over the heads of the money-hungry merchants, but you can get a lot more coin for your items if you take the time to negotiate their sales. As your character (or a companion) works the stall, the popularity of your wares goes up, meaning more people flock to you when you set up, in search of a bargain. You can even offer sales to pique the interest of a crowd. We’ve literally spent hours just sitting, watching people wander up and peruse our stuff, visibly torn over whether they can afford that new steel crossbow or not.
Better yet, the items don’t just disappear when you sell them, either. If you sell armour or weapons, chances are the character will equip it on the spot. After a few days haggling, most of the guards in Whiterun were wearing dragonplate armour and carrying Daedric warhammers, while all their wages sat firmly in our coffers.
Fuck you, Ulfarth War-Bear. You’re going to bed hungry tonight.
1. You are not the Dragonborn
We’ve all got to the point by now where we’ve had at least two characters running around Skyrim at some point. Maybe they’ve been very different in their approaches, but they’ve both shared something in common. They’ve both been the Dragonborn, instilled with ancient power, and fated to lead the people of Skyrim in their fight against their ancient foe, Alduin. But what if you don’t want to be the Dragonborn? What if you just want to be a merchant, or an assassin, or a farmer?
You are not the Dragonborn places you in the mythical role of “just some guy”. You’re not the fated adventurer of legend. You’re some schmuck the Imperials picked up and stuffed on a cart with the rest. When you get free, you don’t have to follow the main quest-line because you can’t. When the first dragon dies, its soul doesn’t become your property. Because you’re just some guy.
At first, this may sound like a silly idea, but when you come to terms with the fact that you’re not the Dragonborn, you can be anything. Before this, we felt bad about mining for a living because we were supposed to be out kicking ass, but now we’re kind of okay with it. We don’t mind being the guy who uses an invisibility potion to sneak into the Meadery and make off with as many bottles as possible. It’s not like there’s any greater path we’re following. There really is no more liberating experience than playing Skyrim without feeling as though everything depends on you. At least, this is what we tell ourselves every time we spend four solid in-game days aimlessly rolling cabbages down the little stream in Whiterun market.