The Kids Are Alright - The Elder Scrolls mods
October 5, 2012 6:23 AM   Subscribe

The Elder Scrolls series has a very strong modding community. The recently-released Morrowind Sounds & Graphics Overhaul v3.0 (FAQ) (trailer) (screenshots) is a mod compilation of 100+ mods (list), which gives a new lease of life to 2002's Game of the Year. It includes a semi-automatic installer (video) (forums) and options for the various mods. A gameplay pack has been in the works for quite a while, but if you want more than cosmetics and don't mind looking around, voila: you may dive in. However, the modding community is at its best in Oblivion.

Modding Oblivion takes some preparation, but it can change the game radically. First, be smart from the very beginning. Patch the game for bug fixes and use the Oblivion mod manager (instructions from the useful wiki) to manage your mods. If you want to go beyond the call of duty, try Wrye Bash for something more complex and powerful. Lastly, BOSS (read this) will help with the loading order of mods.

You can find here and here a list of popular mods. OblivionNexus alone has 27000+ files.


BTMod optimises the user interface so that it doesn't feel like a console game and isn't too prominent. You may even turn off the bars if you wish. It also helps with the inventory. Immersive Interface does the same thing while leaving the inventory intact. Ditto DarNified.

Expanded Hotkeys and Spell Delete does what it says on the tin.

Fast exit allows you to exit the game at once.

Map Marker Overhaul allows you to set custom markers etc.


FCOM is a one-stop mod that integrates four popular mods: OOO, MMM, Francesco's and Warcry (see below).

Francesco's leveled creatures/items addresses the most significant complaint of players: if you use this, enemies/guards/items (you may decide which) won't always level up with you. This means no more bandits that are stronger than demons at high levels, no more demons in Oblivion that are weak as rats at low levels and no more having to avoid leveling up.

Quest Award Leveling makes rewards level up with you.

Legendary Mastery allows the player's skills to be effective above 100.

No Psychic Guards makes guards respond to your criminal ability only if they are nearby.

Supreme Magicka and Midas Magic offer new spells for the magic-oriented player.

Oscuro's Oblivion Overhaul changes the balance of the game, making it more difficult.

You can change the economic fabric of Cyrodiil with mods such as Trade and Commerce or Enhanded Economy.


If you want to begin Morrowind-style you may Arrive by Ship and if you want to recreate Thief try Thieves Arsenal.

The Lands of Solstheim, Vvardenfell and Mournhold (SoVvM) recreates the three main zones of Morrowind and its expansions.

Martigen's Monster Mod has 150 new creatures and 1900 variant creatures if you want more variety in your game.

Wilderness Creature Lists increases the number of creatures you may meet out in the wild.

Deadly Reflex adds more combat moves.

There are mods that provide a home for the player like Belda Elysium Manor House or Legend in the Sky.

Akatosh Mount allows you to summon a dragon and fly around the world.

Companion Vilja has the approval of Terry Pratchett and more than 130 lines written by him.

Cosmetic mods:

Natural Environments has packs for improved weather, water, animals and vegetation.

Qarl's Texture Pack III improves the look of the game. You may use a less resource-intensive version.

Really AEVWD
includes new Distant Viewable Objects.

Unique Landscapes is a pack of handcrafted outdoors locations.

Better Cities updates a lot of the cities.

Immersive Interiors allows you to see out of the windows of interior spaces.

There are also animation mods like Actors in Charge, Seph's New Animations or DMC Stylish, which should be seen at least once even though you might not want to play the full game using it.


There is a ton of item mods that runs the spectrum from fantasy swords to realistic weapons and to mundane items like forks. There are so many that giving recommendations is pointless, so look into them. I like Lost Paladins of the Divine though.

Mods like Streamline and Oblivion Stutter Remover can provide a smoother experience.

Some of the fancier mods require Oblivion Script Extender (OBSE) or Oblivion Graphics Extender. Keep in mind that if you use conflicting mods, the game will crash. If you try mods one by one (or read the documentation), you'll know which mods conflict. You can still play with 30 mods concurrently.


If you're still hankering for TES and don't mind going back in time, you can even download Daggerfall, its patches and its mods for free. Previously, previously, previously.
posted by ersatz (31 comments total) 75 users marked this as a favorite
Aiee. Don't forget Nehrim.
posted by echocollate at 6:31 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is it indicative of anything that none of those screen shots show any NPCs?
posted by crunchland at 6:34 AM on October 5, 2012

As someone who gave up on Oblivion about 20 hours in because of the levelling up idiocy, being able to address that is a huge boon. Great post, obviously.
posted by howfar at 6:35 AM on October 5, 2012

Daggerfall was my favorite game FOR EVER (or until I played Planescape: Torment), because it blew my mind that you could become a wereboar by sheer misfortune and it wouldn't end the game. It would have consequences, sure, but you didn't get a game over/restart when it happened. Other things, too. The amount of player control was mind blowing at the time.

I'm really tempted to go back and play it now, but I'm sure I'd hate it. There was a higher tolerance for grinding back in the 90's, and I remember a hell of a lot of entering dungeons, deciding I didn't like the layout, exiting the dungeon, re-entering the dungeon.

Not to mention the blue screen of death. I think Daggerfall was the game that made me learn that term. Over and over again.
posted by dinty_moore at 6:49 AM on October 5, 2012

And looking back at the Daggerfall thread from three years ago, I apparently made the same wereboar comment then, too. Look, wereboars had a deep and abiding impact on my life, okay?
posted by dinty_moore at 6:52 AM on October 5, 2012 [6 favorites]

Morrowind was the last great fantasy RPG I played, and its greatness was down almost entirely to the world-building. Yeah, the land could seem a bit crowded if you maxed out the draw distance, but it also seemed like it had life and history independent of your character, so much that at the early stages you suspect you can head off into whatever you want - history, politics, strange towns, haunted ruins- and just keep finding things. Plus, the art direction sold the strangeness of the world by keeping the visuals varied but internally consistent (the feel of the engine may have helped there).

I didn't even bother with Oblivion in part because the setting seemed relatively standard, but also because the leveling system sounded completely broken, in a very "what's the point?" way. I picked it up on a steam sale anyway, but still...

That FCOM mod might make it worth playing anyway, once I have time.

Also, I think you forgot to list out Warcry.
posted by postcommunism at 6:53 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by adamdschneider at 6:56 AM on October 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

I spent a looong time in Morrowind. Those screenshots make me slightly homesick.For me it had absolutely seminal moments; first time I saw a 'mushroom' tower, the spires of an abandoned dwarven castle high in the mist, a dust storm in the bleak interior.

The game had so much depth to it; the different histories, and the different types of histories of the elves, the dwarves, the empire. Just fantastic.

Half the fun was in tuning the game using various mods to improve the experience. I'm just not sure I've got the heart to reload the whole thing and to put the hours into loading and testing all the various mods again.

Whether "the modding community is at its best in Oblivion" is debatable. Certainly Oblivion is virtual hill walking compared to unworldliness of Morrowind. Even Skyrim, from what I've seen, cannot hold a candle to the originality of Morrowind.
posted by BadMiker at 7:09 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

My biggest problem with Oblivion is that even with the most popular and extensive mods to meshes, items, and quests, the overarching story was still dull and uninspiring. It felt more tedious than epic. Even Skyrim, with its gorgeous visuals, still felt like a clutch of mid-level quests bundled awkwardly together.

The reason I love Nehrim so much (I've played it through from beginning to end once a year since it dropped in 2010) is that it actually feels epic. The story is wonderful, and all of the quests are in service to it. I also vastly prefer the reworked spell system and the reimagining of fast travel.

I can't wait to see what the SureAI guys do with Skyrim.
posted by echocollate at 7:13 AM on October 5, 2012

Nehrim is one of the 'previously' links. I did forget to list Warcry despite having it as part of FCOM.

Morrowind was a very characterful game and its main plot was more inspired compared to the later installments, so I thought a catchall aesthetic mod would make a good post on its own. Then I saw that there was no post on Oblivion's mods and, frankly, I'd never play Oblivion without mods. In my view, Morrowind plays great without mods (allowing for the age of the game), but Oblivion needs them. I would have loved a post on Fallout 3/NV mods, but I haven't got a clue about them.
posted by ersatz at 7:13 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

One of the things that makes me happy is that the Elder Scrolls franchise is running out of semi-generic human countries to set their games. I think they only have Hammerfell, and even that was kind of covered in Daggerfall. So here's hoping for Elder Scrolls: Elsweyr!
posted by dinty_moore at 7:15 AM on October 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

It's OK - it's in canon - your character's just having a dream. An unusual dream.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 7:17 AM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also relevant: Morroblivion which "seeks to merge the content from the previous game in the series, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, into the more modern gaming engine of Oblivion."
posted by BadMiker at 7:23 AM on October 5, 2012

Oh man, I spent a fair bit of time working on the Quixotean Tamriel Rebuilt mod back in college. Though it looks like by this point they've released about half the province of Morrowind (the original game took place on Vvardenfell, a volcanic island in the middle). I'm tempted to fire it up again, and see if any of the stuff I made back in the day made it into the release...
posted by Zalzidrax at 7:26 AM on October 5, 2012

I really liked Oblivion, though the setting was a bit on the vanilla side compared to Morrowind, and I sometimes forget that part of the reason I enjoyed it so much is that based on the recommendation of a friend I have literally never played it for even five minutes without having Oscuro's installed. I tend to think of Morrowind as the breathtakingly original setting with some annoying gameplay problems (cliff racers, I'm looking at you) and Oblivion as the vanilla setting/plot but far fewer gameplay annoyances, but sometimes I wonder how much Bethesda actually owes Oscuro for all that. Not enough to uninstall the mod and actually see, mind you, but I do wonder.

By the way, this list is a little short on actual quest mods, but if you've already done all the quests in un-modded Oblivion, don't want to roll up a new character, but want some new content to explore and stuff actually do once you've got all these fancy overhauls and whatnot in, here's a few quest mods I'd personally recommend:

The Lost Spires adds an Archaeology guild and a whole series of quests about the same size/gameplay length as any of the vanilla guilds' quest lines. Very professionally-done mod, can be a little tough performance-wise on computers that already struggle to run Oblivion, though.

Kvatch Rebuilt is pretty expansive in scope; I played a much earlier version of the mod with about half the features it now has, but even then it was nice to have Kvatch stop burning and help people move back in, if a bit annoyingly fetch-quest-y at points.

The Dungeons of Ivellon is just one biggish, hardcore dungeon full of undead. You'll need to bring your own light source, as well (yes, it's true, it's an abandoned dungeon where nobody has set foot for centuries which doesn't have curiously lit wall torches already), which helps up both the creepy factor and the challenge.

The naked Nord - yeah obviously this one started out as a cheeky Morrowind reference but it's actually a pretty entertaining and surprisingly long and involved questline. One bonus: it should be compatible with almost any other mods with a minimum of fuss.

Thievery in the Imperial City just adds a fence and a bunch of stuff to steal for the fence, basically; nothing super-fancy but a little extra fun for a bored thief-type character. Like a lot of quest mods, the ultimate reward at the end is a new house for the player, but...without spoiling anything, I'll just say this particular player house is quite creative.

Now I haven't played much Oblivion recently so I'm sure there are newer and possibly better quest mods out there as well but that's just a few I've tried and enjoyed.
posted by mstokes650 at 7:28 AM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Tamriel Rebuilt

Wow. Things like that make me wonder why there aren't the videogame equivalent of opium dens today, where you can curl up with a cot and a computer and lose yourself for as long as your money holds out.
posted by postcommunism at 7:38 AM on October 5, 2012

Does the colour scheme still run the gamut from brown to light-brown?
posted by Cosine at 7:42 AM on October 5, 2012

I remember a hell of a lot of entering dungeons, deciding I didn't like the layout, exiting the dungeon, re-entering the dungeon.

I should have done this. What ultimately ended my Daggerfall experience was getting trapped in a randomly-generated dungeon that had taken identical pieces of one of the main-quest dungeons and arranged them in some kind of mind-bending recursive fractal pattern that I spent a day or two trying unsuccessfully to map before just giving up and realizing my character was never going to get out of that dungeon and I didn't have it in me to roll a new character. Every time I am tempted to re-try Daggerfall I think of that and decide to pass.

I would have loved a post on Fallout 3/NV mods, but I haven't got a clue about them.

Hmm. I was going to offer to help, but I have yet to make it to the end of New Vegas, and I found both of them to need less in the way of both graphical overhauls and gameplay overhauls than Oblivion did, so I didn't mod them nearly so much.
posted by mstokes650 at 7:45 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wow. Things like that make me wonder why there aren't the videogame equivalent of opium dens today, where you can curl up with a cot and a computer and lose yourself for as long as your money holds out.

I used to go to one of these; they called it "Azeroth".
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 8:00 AM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

My biggest problem with Oblivion is that even with the most popular and extensive mods to meshes, items, and quests, the overarching story was still dull and uninspiring.

Totes agree. I've sunk many hours into Oblivion but have never completed the main quest. For my money the most interesting story was the Dark Brotherhood sub-quest. Other than that I spent all my time foraging in the woods making potions.
posted by Doleful Creature at 8:19 AM on October 5, 2012

Oblivion was totally the jumping/skipping through the woods picking flowers, and occasionally making friends with (read: trying to shoot and fail) the local wildlife game. Nobody can convince me otherwise.

Skyrim was all about looking up at the sky in wonder and then running when you realized there was a dragon in it. You know, after you rode your horse to the top of a mountain.
posted by dinty_moore at 8:24 AM on October 5, 2012

Other great Oblivion mods:

Frostcrag Reborn is an overhaul of the mage home DLC that includes some high-level quests and a secret in the "basement" that was mind blowing in scale, even for Oblivion.

Midas Magic, referenced above not only adds a ton of nifty spells and some cool new monsters but also gives gives you quests to some amazing and weird places in order to learn some of the high-level spells.

And the official Shivering Isles DLC is probably the best story, location, and quest line in the game. It feels much more like Morrowind in it's weirdness.
posted by straight at 9:11 AM on October 5, 2012

My attempt at MMM+OOO oblivion modding made it unstable and slow as heck. I think that I spent as long trying to get the software to work as playing the game. It crawls where fallout 3 and NV fly. The above addressed the dumb leveling approach, but also in an awkward way. Now leveling takes forever for stealth / mage (it was bad in base also) and the great bulk of the world is unapproachably deadly. The low-mid levels are so painful and the quests I've done so dull that I'll likely never go back. I loved MW mods, but I've kept F3/NV vanilla.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 10:24 AM on October 5, 2012

My biggest problem with Morrowind (and by problem I mean why I stopped playing after about a year) was that I figured out that potions were exploitable.

For some reason if there is a completely in-game way of getting an unfair advantage I am incapable of not using it. Give me about an hour and I'll end up with an inventory full of potions that give me god like abilities. Makes the game pretty easy.

Cheats never, exploits forever. It's a sickness.
posted by Bonzai at 1:18 PM on October 5, 2012

Yeah, the whole alchemy/enchant laddering in Skyrim got pretty ridiculous. (And by ridiculous I mean awesome and fun.)
posted by xedrik at 1:22 PM on October 5, 2012

I don't know what it's called but I read about this mod that forces morrowind to run under oblivion's engine. When they make it so that morrowind runs under Skyrim's engine, I think I'll give it another go :) Morrowind, Halo, and Ocarina of Time will forever be the three games against which I judge all others.
posted by rebent at 3:54 PM on October 5, 2012

Oblivion is, from a content point of view, much blander than Morrowind but, once you add the OOO mod, I would argue it's one of the best dungeon crawlers ever. Yes, for a low level character OOO is kinda merciless. But it never felt unfair and it was a great challenge.

One thing I really liked about OOO was the mixing of low level and much higher level enemies in a dungeon, just in different sections. Gave every large dungeon a great feeling of menace. This section with skeletons and bandits was kinda easy but, you turn the corner, and the balrog and all his daedric freaks pounce, and then its a brisk run in sheer terror towards the exit.
posted by honestcoyote at 4:05 PM on October 5, 2012

It includes a semi-automatic installer

It installs as fast as you pull the trigger!
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:14 AM on October 6, 2012

Rock Paper Shotgun reports that in the USA, Toys-R-Us is currently selling Skyrim (and Diablo 3!) for $9.99 and that Best Buy may be matching that price.
posted by straight at 1:07 PM on October 6, 2012

I used to play Morrowind mods, but then I took an arrow in the knee.
posted by saysthis at 10:22 AM on October 7, 2012

Sorry to hear that Saysthis
posted by rebent at 4:58 PM on October 7, 2012

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