As Skyrim modding takes over you will get lots of good and bad advice and its going to be very hard to know what works, so this should help. Experience tells me what I share with you here today, both as a player and a modder of Bethesdas other games.
There are going to be mods tools, lots of bad advice and lots of crashing and 10,000s of threads crying out for help as tools are presented a solution to making all your favorite mods work together. A system that has been proven time and time again not to work and has spawned hundreds of guides with titles like "50 steps to a stable game" that never work either will appear.
Players will be told they can have their cake and eat it with this system, and because players always go with stuff they believe benefits them, they will adopt the system because they want both mods to work. Even when every official rule in the book screams out it is never going to happen and is an incredibly bad idea.
The system nearly always requires the tools and its usually the tool maker or his fans that start spreading the advice that makes their tools important to you.
You will follow that advice, your game will start crashing out more often and eventually you will have several crashes an hour and will believe it is Skyrim to blame or some mod, anything but your own decision to ignore the official system. At which point your locked in to a downward spiral to CTD land that will just get worse because all solutions on offer involving using the same tools that caused the problem again to fix it.
In time you will redefine what a stable game means to 5 crashes an hour and when asked, you will tell people your game is stable but experienced modders like my self will read your post in our threads and will do a quick search of the forum for your other posts and see you complaining about crashes else where and know your lying and we will say something to that effect and you will become very upset at being caught out.
I know all this because I have seen it played out this way 10,000s of the times on Beths forums for oblivion and their other games. It always ends the same way for a vast majority of players. Consider what you have read so far as a prophecy of things to come for those who follow that advice....
When comes to pass in the exact manner I have outlined you can either call me the 10th Divine and believe me to be some Tamriel God, or you can put it down to experience and start using your own eyes to see these things for your self in the future.
This all happens because they attempt to by pass a system designed to prevent mods from doing that, the system they are by passing is Bethesdas official modding system which if used correctly works perfectly fine in keeping your games stable and it even allows you to build up long mod lists without it feeling like a house of cards.
Bethesdas official modding system has been used in Morrowind, Oblivion, Fallout 3, Fallout NV and looks like it will be used in Skyrim too. The system is a conflict based modding system. Everything works by overriding content in the original game or adding to it. Clearly it is safer to add new content than to edit existing content and the decision to make new content rather than edit existing content is the most vital decision a modder can make when deciding how compatible his future work will be.
But most mods will edit something from the original game and will conflict with Skyrim to in order to work.
That is normal, that is Bethesdas official system in action.
Mods work by conflicting with the game, that is the nature of the system but the trouble starts with mods conflict with other mods. That is when Bethesdas modding system steps in and stops all but the last mods edits from working. Sometimes this is fine, sometimes something vital from earlier mods is blocked and it causes crashing.
In all cases the solution is simple.
If 2 mods conflict, remove 1 and use the other, problem solved.
That rule is so important I am going to say it again in bold print.
That rule on its own will cure 95% of all problems you experience with mods, the other 5% tends to be bugs in the mods them selves and requires more help from the modder.
Every rule has exceptions and most of Bethesda games have had some common exceptions that applied to all games and experience will tell you what these are. Usually stuff that is eye candy or not used by anything complicated in the game. But remember, only 1 mod can edit an item at a time, you will NEVER EVER get 2 mods edits of the same item to work. NOT EVER... it does not work that way and never has despite what some people tell you and despite what mods claim to do it, Bethesdas system always allows the last edit to work and blocks the rest ALWAYS.
For example of a person tells you to merge 2 NPCs, your always going to get the last NPC to be merged not both because of that system. Even if it did merge 2 NPC cannot have 2 completely different set of stats on the same NPC, only 1 will be chosen. So even at the microscopic modding level, when you get in to the heart of the modding system, the Bethesda official system still works the exact same way as it does on a full sized mod.
From the atoms that make up the mods to the full fleshy mod that walks and talks, it all follows the same Golden rule.
You have to choose 1 mod and dump the other, there are NO WORK AROUNDs for this.
Every time Bethesda release a new game, the fine print of the system used changes slightly, making us all noobies again until we learn the fine print of the new game.
For example, in Oblivion moving a persistent default item from the original game in a mod, moved it permanently so even if the mod got removed later, the item did not go back to its original position. But in Fallout 3 removing a mod removed all its changes. A vital rule to know when making or using mods. Many city mod users fell victim to this because items got moved and removing the mod meant starting a new game to fix it.
That is the fine print, the most important rules of all are found in the fine print and can only be learned by actually mastering the modding system your self or reading the docs of a modder who has mastered them and explained it for his or her users.
You cannot learn this any other way, and unless you are a real modder with lots of mods to your name, you will never be a master of the fine print, it just does not work that way.
Here is a very simple example that is easier to follow than most examples I have, consider it part of that fine print, the arcane lore of modding that the masters of modding all learn and exploit.
In my CUO series for Oblivion I added Janixs potions to CURP and enabled them in game using a separate CUO esp file. I did this without editing the original potions from Oblivion, so no conflict existed. I added them using a couple of leveled list so that created a conflict at that point but only at that point. Normally people would edit the potions directly and the whole mod would block other potion mods but my decision not to edit the original potions meant a lot of extra work for me, but it also meant other potion mods would still work alongside mine.
No other mods could edit that leveled list, that was the conflict I choose to accept when I designed my mods, the alternative was full blown conflict with all potion mods so that was the best way forward.
Because I left the original potions in place and did not edit them in anyway, a second potion mod that did edit the original potions could be run along side my own potion mod. Allowing my potions and the other mods potions to work side by side in the game.
To the player, 2 conflicting mods worked together, appearing to break the Golden Rule. But in reality, a clever bit of trickery meant no rules got broken, I stayed within the official Bethesda modding system.
That is an example of how modders can exploit the fine print I am talking about here and appear to break the golden rule without actually doing so.
Modders learn this by making mods, players cannot really learn it by playing games. Consider it ancient arcane modding knowledge and you have to be Gandalf to know these things and try not to blow your own head off with a fire ball trying :)
The above system is proven to work, ask any of my mod users or site users who follow my advice, how many crashes they get and how big their mod is has gotten since the started using the official system properly. They are able to run hundreds of mods this way without issue. They all report their games are more or less rock solid stable.
Mods are fun things again they can pick and mix, and it is rare to see people posting about the worries they have about trying something new. They just do it, they see more mods than ever, they use more mods than ever, they know the ground rules and made their mod list changes accordingly. I do it when I start a new character. The biggest changes often take place when going from warriors to mages to thieves.
I hope this helps some of you enjoy Skyrim and avoid the nightmare others will far for.
I will promise you 2 things here.
1) A game as stable as beth can make it.
2) You will not fear installing new mods and trying them out using Bethesdas system.
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