The Journey Begins

The Journey of a Thousand Plugins begins with a single click.

There are two last and very important, specific notes that we've saved for this point.

First, the Guide does not support installations of Skyrim that do not use the English Language.

  1. DarkLadyLexy and the vast majority of her little minions are all native English speakers. That, therefore, is the setup that they use when updating and maintaining this guide.
  2. While we understand that many of you might speak and play games in your native languages, we don't have anybody on staff who both knows that language (more likely than not) AND can make and maintain the required changes to all of the patches that the Guide provides to support that language. We simply can't do it.
  3. We apologize if this offends, but it is not a matter of "will not" but "can not".

This one is important and will be stated as clearly and simply as possible. We DO NOT and WILL NOT support software piracy in any form, including mod piracy.

  1. This includes providing links to mod files that have been hidden, deleted, or otherwise completely removed from mod file sites.
    1. It should be noted that this does NOT include "Archived Files" on the Nexus. There is a legal way to obtain these files (as will be detailed below), and it is not piracy. This was determined after a discussion with Nexus staff members.
  2. If you are on Lexy's Discord Server and are found to be using a pirated game, operating system, or any other tool or file, you can expect to be banned from the server by the Moderators or Admins. Illegal activity of any kind will not be encouraged or supported.
  3. It should also be noted that the Guide cannot be properly installed on a cracked or stolen game or system - almost all pirates that have been caught on the server were caught because of this. DO NOT DO IT.

Modification Tag Explanations

The Tags shown below will appear with appropriate Mods as you install them. Not all of them require any action on your part - many of them are for informational purposes or to help you locate a particular group of mods quickly if needed. Any action required during the installation will be given when it needs to be performed.

As an example, many mods will have the "LOOT" tag. You do not need to adjust this mod's LOOT rules until you are directed to do so.

BodyslideMod that requires Bodyslide processing.
CAOMods that require Cathedral Assets Optimizer processing.
CLASSICMods that are downloaded from classic Skyrim.
CREATION KIT RESAVEMods whose ESPs need to be Converted to form 44 in the SSE Creation Kit.
DAR--OARMod that uses Dynamic Animation Replacer or Open Animation Replacer.
ENBMods that use ENB features.
ESLMods whose ESPs can be safely flagged as an ESL to help further reduce the overall plugin count.
EXTRACT THE BSAMods whose BSAs need to be extracted using Mod Organizer 2's BSA extractor.
LOOTMods that need LOOT rules to be set on the Finishing Line page.
MO2 Removal ToolMods that requires processing with MO2 Removal Tool.
NemesisThis tag denote mods that need Nemesis.
SKSE DLLThis tag denotes a mod that contains an SKSE DLL.
SPIDMods with this tag use Spell Perk Item Distributor Framework
TOOLA modding utility to be used during your modding adventure.
xEdit -- Quick Auto CleanMods whose ESPs are cleaned by xEdit
zMergeMods whose ESPs will be merged later using zMerge to reduce the overall ESP count.

Mod Installation

While installing the guide, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. DO NOT try to run the game to "make sure the installation is going well" until directed. Many of the files we install rely on other files that may not yet have been installed. Trust the process. If there are problems at the end, the Staff on the server should be able to help you either correct the errors or at least put you in contact with the right people to get you the help you need.
  2. For your own sanity, DO NOT run LOOT until you reach The Finishing Line Page portion of the install. You'll see all kinds of errors on the LOOT UI Screen, and you will completely lose your mind. Trust the process.
  3. Throughout the Guide, you will find several places where you are instructed to remove files from a mod. Many times, you will see these filenames with a "*" in their names. As an example, you might see "helgen reborn.esp\*.tga". In such cases, this means deleting ALL FILES that match that pattern (in this case, all files that have the TGA extension in that folder). These instructions will be seen in "SPECIAL INSTRUCTION" headers below the mod information and will appear as follows: Special Instructions.

Depending on the type of file you are downloading, you may treat them differently in how they are installed into Mod Organizer 2. The below instructions are our recommendations for how to handle this, which allow for the greatest possible flexibility and ease of updating. Also, below are some bits of advice for the mod installation process:

  1. Once you have installed a mod, ACTIVATE THE MOD AND ITS FILES in MO2. Future installations of other mods may rely on that mod being active in both panes of MO2 for its installation to work properly.
    1. Install as normal. If the mod page has multiple Main Files that you will be installing, each file should be installed AS A SEPARATE MOD (IE, change the mod title name of the second file installed) so that they are considered two different mods by MO2. This allows you to update each file independently of the other instead of downloading and installing all of the files again if only one of them updates.
    1. These files should be installed into the SAME MOD LISTING as its parent mod. This can be done by telling MO2 to "Merge" the files, which will tell MO2 to overwrite the original version with the update, which is exactly what we want to happen.
    1. These files should be installed as a SEPARATE MOD in MO2. DO NOT OVERWRITE the original mod files. This is done for the same reasons as the Main Files.

FOMOD Screenshots

Throughout the guide, you will install several mods with FOMOD Instructions. Updating the FOMOD screenshots is a major pain on the website backend, so replacement screenshots will only be taken when necessary. Cosmetic differences like the Version in the FOMOD being different in screenshots, extra options being available, etc. should be generally ignored. Only select what is selected in the screenshots, and uncheck anything not selected in the screenshots, or not present in the screenshots.

Nexus Archive Files

Ancient sweatshirt wisdom tells us that "Change is inevitable (except from a vending machine)".

Mods are constantly being updated. Bugs get fixed, improvements get made, new features get implemented, new bugs are found, and the process repeats itself all over again. Depending on the development cycle of the guide, it is possible that the mod we list has been updated since the guide was updated, meaning that the version we list in the guide will differ from what is available on the Nexus, making it more difficult to download directly.

Thanks to the Nexus change in policy some time ago, these files can now be found in the Archived Files tab. They do not, however, have a download button associated with them. The files are still available; however, if you know how to get to them. There are several ways to do this, and instructions for how to do this are below.

Option 1: Discord Bot

Thanks to one of the Discord server's staff members, a bot has been created that can help you quickly locate the version you are seeking.

  1. If you haven't already, join the Discord server. Read the server rules, take a look at all the chaos in the channels, and introduce yourself. Once you've got a feel for the insane people in charge...
  2. Go to the #bot-fishing Channel. This channel is specifically for running bot commands, including a few others you might want to use later in the guide install process.
  3. Type /nexus help, and the bot will walk you through what you need to do.

There are times when the Nexus Bot can't help or might be very hard to work with. When (If) that happens, go with Option 2.

Option 2: Manual Method:

  1. If you previously installed this file or still have the original download through MO2, this can be found in the META file in the mod's install folder or MO2's download folder, respectively.
  2. If you don't have this, then follow the below instructions:
    1. Go to the Nexus Mod Page for the mod file you are trying to download.
    2. Go to the "Files" tab.
    3. Click on the "File Archive" button at the bottom of the page.
    4. Locate the file you need. RIGHT-CLICK on the top of this file, then select INSPECT ELEMENT.

    5. Your browser window will open the Elements pane, and you will see some code. Look for a line that starts similar to: dt id="file-expander-header-317360

    6. The number (317360 in this example) would be the FileID of the file you selected.

    7. in the link below, change ONLY the "YourFileIDHere" portion to match the FileID from step 5-6. DO NOT CHANGE the "1704" at the end of the link! This is the identifier for the GAME (Skyrim SE) that the FileID is associated with.

  3. If you have problems with the above instructions, a picture version of them can be found on Lexy's Discord, in the #installation-help channel's pinned posts.

If that STILL doesn't work...

Option 3: Search your Discord, Luke...

Do a quick search on Discord if you still are having problems - if you can't get the file, chances are someone else couldn't either, and you can likely find the link with a quick search or glance through #FAQ. And then, if even after ALL of this you STILL can't get it, there is always Option 4.

Option 4: Beg and Plead

Give one of the Help-Desk Minions in #installation-help a shout. They can help you out.

Extracting BSA Files

No Anesthetic Needed

A Bethesda Softworks Archive (BSA) file is a compression file type (similar to a ZIP, 7ZIP, or similar file) that Skyrim uses to store assets used by a plugin file. Usually, this includes things like texture files, sound files, scripts, and other similar assets. More times than not, if a Mod Author (MA) packs their assets in a BSA, we leave it alone and allow it to operate as it was designed.

There are, for current Guide purposes, a couple times when we will extract the BSA files:

  1. The BSA comes with a "Dummy" plugin file. This means that there are no actual records in the plugin file, and that the plugin file exists only so that the BSA will be read by the game. This is completely unnecessary, so we will extract the BSA and delete the plugin in this situation.
  2. We will be using the plugin as part of a Merge, which will remove the ability of the plugin file to read that BSA, meaning the assets will go unused.

We will be using the BSA Extractor plugin that is included with Mod Organizer 2 to do this. There are two ways to accomplish this.

Option 1: The Normal, Automagical Way

The plugin is enabled by default, but we do want to change one of the plugin settings by doing the following:

  1. Click the "spanner and screwdriver" icon in the top left corner of MO2.
  2. Click the Plugins tab.
  3. Find and select the BSA Extractor plugin.
  4. On the right side, make sure the only_alternate_source option is set to false.

Anytime a Mod is installed that contains a BSA file, a prompt will appear asking if you wish to extract the BSA file. There are three options - be careful which button you press. For mods that you want extracted (marked with the EXTRACT THE BSA Tag), SELECT YES. Be careful not to turn off the prompt! If you do this, you can re-enable them in the general tab of Settings, by pressing Reset Dialog Choices.

The BSA Extractor prompt will also ask if you want to delete the BSA after extraction - select Yes for this as well.

For all other mods, SELECT NO. 

At this point, you will receive a notification during installation for any mod that includes a BSA asking if you want to extract it. If the instructions tell you to do so, click Yes otherwise, click No. With the newest version of MO2, the BSA extractor will also ask if you want to delete the BSA after extracting it say Yes.

Option 2: The Manual Way

If you have turned off the prompt accidentally or for some other reason realize you have not extracted a BSA you need to, you can do it manually as well.

  1. Pick the "Archive" tab in the MO2 Right Pane.
  2. Scroll through the list of BSA Archives (they are listed with the plugin file that they are associated with).
  3. Once you have found the file you are looking to extract, RIGHT-CLICK on the file name and select EXTRACT.
  4. You will prompted for an extraction location. Find the folder that matches the name of the mod the BSA is associated with.
  5. The files will be extracted, but the BSA file will still be present. It can be deleted from its location using the normal File Explorer methods.

Converting Old Plugins

Dealing with "Oldies, but Goodies"

The original version of Skyrim (Skyrim: LE) used a slightly different version of the plugin files than Skyrim: SE does (Form 43 vs. Form 44). Because the Guide uses a number of mods that were originally designed and released for Skyrim: LE, the plugins will be in this older form. While these files will usually not cause a problem, it is a very simple process to convert the older format to the newer one and make certain of it.

We will be using the Creation Kit to perform this conversion. All mods that require this conversion will have the CREATION KIT RESAVE Mod Tag.

1. Convert the Plugin with the Creation Kit

  1. Verify that the Overwrite Folder is empty. This will always be listed last in the Left Pane of MO2. If any files are present, they can be removed.
  2. From the Executable Drop-Down menu of MO2, select and run the Creation Kit.
  3. Once it has loaded, open the File menu and select Data...
  4. Locate the plugin file to be converted and select "Set as Active File".
  5. Click on OK and allow the Creation Kit to finish loading.
    • There will be numerous errors shown in a window in the background. These are normal and can be ignored. They will not affect this process.
  6. Once the load process is complete, select "File" and then "Save".
    • You read that right. As soon as it's loaded, SAVE IT. This is literally all we need to do to convert the plugin.
  7. Close the Creation Kit.

The updated version of the plugin should have overwritten the older version. No additional action is required for the conversion. There have been rare reports that the process did not work, but the conversion process can be verified by:

2. Verifying the plugin with SSEEdit

  1. From the Executable Drop-Down menu of MO2, select and run xEdit.
  2. When the initial load is complete, RIGHT-CLICK in the window showing the plugin list and choose Select None.
  3. Locate the converted plugin in the list and DOUBLE-CLICK it. xEdit should begin loading again. Look for the message "Background Loader: finished" to indicate the completion of the loading.
  4. Verify that the last plugin in the left pane is the one you are verifying. RIGHT-CLICK on this plugin and select Check for errors.
  5. A message should display that reads "All done!" This indicates a clean plugin that will work.
    • If errors are reported, you will need to either correct them or try the plugin conversion a second time before moving to the next step.
  6. RIGHT-CLICK on the plugin again and select Sort Masters.
  7. Exit xEDIT. Be sure to save the modified plugin.
  8. Run the plugin through xEdit Quick Auto Clean.

Cathedral Assets Optimizer

How to Milk the CAO

One last common task that will appear in the Guide for you to work with is running a mod through Cathedral Asset Optimizer (CAO). As mentioned in the Converting Plugins section, some of the mods we use are from Skyrim: LE and the meshes and textures that go with them do not always play nice with Skyrim: SE. To ensure your game setup doesn't explode, A number of different profiles have been created:

  • Lexy’s LOTD SE - BSA: Optimizes the Meshes and Textures, then packs them into a BSA.
  • Lexy’s LOTD SE - No BSA: Optimizes the Meshes and Textures, but leaves them as loose files.
  • Lexy’s LOTD SE - WICO: Specifically set up to optimize the Meshes and Textures for WICO - Windsong Immersive Character Overhaul while following the guides Special Instructions for it.
  • SSE - Downsize Textures - 1K: Downsizes any Texture that is bigger than 1024 x 1024 to 1k. If you try to save some VRAM feel free to use this Profile to downsize some Textures where you feel it’s appropriate.
  • SSE - Downsize Textures - 2K: Downsizes any Texture that is bigger than 2048 x 2048 to 2k. If you try to save some VRAM feel free to use this Profile to downsize some Textures where you feel it’s appropriate.

Mods that require this processing will have the CAO Mod Tag along with which profile you should use.

  1. CLOSE MO2. CAO is designed to run OUTSIDE of Mod Organizer. Do not minimize it; CLOSE IT.
  2. Launch CAO from its executable file in its installation folder.
  3. Look at the mod's Special Instructions. It will list a profile type to use in CAO. Ensure you are using the correct profile.
  4. Click on the Open Directory button. Navigate to the folder containing the mod that requires conversion. Select this folder.
  5. Click on the Log button. This will show you what CAO will process.
  6. Click Run.
  7. When CAO has completed its run, close the program.
  8. Repeat Steps 2 - 7 for all downloaded Files for this Mod (Main, Optional and Miscellaneous).

Mod Organizer 2 Removal Tool

Taking out the trash

One last common task that will appear in the Guide for you to work with is running a mod through Mod Organizer Removal Tool. The tool simplifies removing files from mods.

Mods that require this processing will have the MO2 Removal Tool Mod Tag.

  1. Select the "MO2 Removal Tool" option from the tools menu in the MO2 toolbar (The Puzzle Icon).
  2. Look at the mod's Special Instructions. It will list all the files that need removing.
  3. Type the name of the mod from which you want to remove files/folders (The last mod in your modlist is selected by default).
  4. Copy and Paste the paths into the box below the mod selector.
  5. Click Run. Another dialog will open.
  6. Review the files that will be removed. Any wildcard paths will be expanded to show what files were selected.
  7. Click "Remove All" to finalize the deletion. Note that you can also invert the selection to remove everything EXCEPT what you originally entered. THIS IS EXPERIMENTAL. Remember that you CANNOT undo a deletion from this tool, I personally recommend using the "mohidden" option when using this feature.
  8. A file will be created in the root folder of the mod to log the removals you made. The file will be called {modName}.{'delete'|'mohidden'}.log