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Keizaal: A Simple Modlist

Preamble

Keizaal is a simple modlist that seeks to enhance and expand on Skyrim without compromising Bethesda’s original vision that we all fell in love with back in 2011. The following are the core pillars of this list:

  1. This modlist intends to maintain the Vanilla feel. I want everything to feel like it belongs in the base game. No new complicated systems or anything that requires a manual to understand. This is a simple modlist, you can experience the content as if it was always there.
  2. Immersion is paramount. I’m a lore buff and immersion is very important to me. If a mod is not lore accurate or takes me out of the game in any way it will be excluded. Consistency also falls into this category, if a mod has a completely different aesthetic from Vanilla or any of my other mods then it will probably not be included.
  3. Mods must have decent longevity. This modlist wants to be somewhat relevant, in theory, forever.
  4. Stability is the most important thing. This rule basically supersedes all the above. If a mod introduces major stability concerns it will be quickly cut.

You can find a full list of the mods included in Keizaal here. If you feel like this modlist is for you, click here to go straight to the installation guide.

If you’re still curious about what Keizaal has in store for you, I have provided a brief overview below.

Essentials

There are some mods that every installation of Skyrim just needs to have. This includes a ton of fixes from SKSE64 to meh321’s various engine-level fixes. I won’t spend time talking much about this because I’m sure you’re all aware of this and know what to expect. However, I will highlight some of the inclusions unique to Keizaal.

UI is very important because it affects all players. SkyUI and RaceMenu is a natural inclusion in virtually every installation of Skyrim on PC; however, some lesser-known UI extensions have been included in Keizaal. First and foremost is moreHUD, a great mod that gives the player more information outside of menus. This mostly comes in the form of tooltips before you pick up objects or the display of enemies’ level, this mod just gives players access to more information on the fly without needing to dig into more menus.

I like to cater to a lot of different people who want to play the game in different ways. One example of this is perspective. I don’t think it’s wrong to say that most people prefer to play in first-person, but I know there are many, including my wife, who actually like third person better. As such I’ve included a package of mods aimed to make the third-person experience feel more digestible. SmoothCam is the heavy-hitter in this category, it completely changes how the third-person camera behaves. It is much more fluid and natural, making Skyrim feel so much better when playing in third-person.

Lastly I have a short list of miscellaneous mods I wanted to talk about in this section. BlockSteal prevents the player from stealing any object unless they are actively sneaking, this is a very nice how to prevent you from accidentally stealing some bread in front of the bartender and immediately getting arrested. GIST - Genuinely Intelligent Soul Trap improves the logic that the game uses when deciding which soul gem to place the soul you captured in, no longer will you have a bunch of Grand Soul Gems with Skeever souls. To Your Face adjusts NPC behavior so they won’t blurt out random comments while you pass them in the street unless you’re directly facing them.

Graphics

Keizaal contains a large visual package to improve the visual fidelity of the game while sticking true to the original art style that Bethesda presented us. I use Base Coat as… well, a base coat for the list. It includes cleaned and upscaled vanilla textures that are based on a variety of different texture mods. From tere I add on a wide array of texture and mesh replacer that are too numerous to list here individually. I will discuss some of the more noteworthy inclusions.

The Static Mesh Improvement Mod serves as the base of my mesh replacers. It reworks a ton of Vanilla models to make them more three-dimensional and believable. The High Poly Project covers a lot of other items that SMIM misses with a large selection of new models and textures. In addition to these mods there are several individual mesh replacers that help to complete the package, this includes but is not limited to mods such as Cathedral 3D Mountain Flowers, 3D Pine Grass, and 3D Snowberries.

Good lighting is the key to sell anything graphically. You can have the prettiest textures and the most well crafted models there is, but they will suffer severely if you do not provide good lighting for them to be displayed in. That being said I did not want to go overboard on the lighting and make an exceptionally dark game. For the backbone of my lighting I have a combination of Relighting Skyrim, ENB Light, and several individual particle light mods to improve the visual fidelity of lighting. I could be amiss to not mention Wander - A Weather Overhaul; while it is not strictly a lighting mod it effects the weathers and they have a big impact on how light looks in exterior locations.

Besides for the mods listed above Gamwich’s Rustic series covers a large swath of texture replacers alongside other authors such as CaBaL120, FrankFamily and IconicDeath. Nearly all of my water is handled by the wonderful Water for ENB by mindflux.

Locations

For years I have been content with Vanilla cities. No overhaul mods really caught my eye or really gave me a reason to keep it in my game for an extended period of time. However, that has changed. The Capital Expansion Series have the honor of being the first city overhauls that have made me abandon Vanilla cities. There is so much love put into these overhaul. Not only have cities have been expanded and new districts added, but new NPCs have been given unique dialogue and various new quests are avalible for the player to take part in. These overhauls really feel like they fit in the world, moreso than any I’ve tried in the past. I am in love.

The major cities aren’t the only ones to get some love though. Minor holds have long been hindered by the fact that four of the nine holds use generic farmhouse architecture. It’s a real shame that Bethesda didn’t give unique models to places such as Dawnstar or Winterhold, especially since Oblivion had ten cities all with distinct tilesets. Cities of the North changes this by replacing the architecture of these smaller holds with brand new models designed by the mod author. This does a lot to bring life to these cities that formly felt rather samey. Dawnstar now feels like a proper port town while Morthal feels properly creepy for its closeness to the swamps. This mod does a straight model swap of the existing buildings and doesn’t redesign the locations much so it’s very compatible with a lot of different mods. Winterhold does bring a small design change, but it’s a much welcome one. It always felt odd that the jarl of the former capital of Skyrim would reign from a simple longhouse. Replacing the old longhouse is an imposing mountaintop keep. I just love the feeling it gives Winterhold; I’ve always had a soft spot for the city and always felt like it was a missed opportunity in Vanilla, it has finally been done justice.

Additionally this modlist features Obscure’s College of Winterhold which is a combination of a faction and location overhaul! This mod features a beautiful overhaul to the College of Winterhold while sticking true to the base game’s aesthetic; new sections of the college are added and other parts are completely overhauled. Additionally the location has a lot more functionality for players that join the faction such as a new training hall and alchemy instructor.

Gameplay

Next up we will be discussing perhaps the most important part of a modlist, the gameplay! Keizaal is largely built around Simon Magus’ overhaul mods (affectionately referred to as “SimonRim”), they are a great series of mods that lines up perfectly with what I’m trying to accomplish with this list. Simon doesn’t attempt to change Skyrim completely, but rather to take what it gives us and enhance it to be the best version that it can be. Adamant is the backbone for this entire experience. It is a perk overhaul that attempts to make every tree worthwhile and introduce new and fun play styles to build around, all without becoming too bloated or straying too far away from what Skyrim is. Blade and Blunt is a combat overhaul that tries to make Skyrim combat more active and engaging without turning it into a Dark Souls clone. Both Simon and I have a pet peeve for combat mods that try to emulate Souls-likes, not because we don’t enjoy those games, but rather because we don’t think it fits Skyrim’s gameplay very well. Blade and Blunt puts a particular emphasis on power attacks and adequate resource management of your health, magicka, and stamina. I would be remiss not to mention perhaps Simon’s most famous mod: Mysticism. This mod aims to overhaul magic in Skyrim and fill gaps in Vanilla progression. A lot of new spells have been seamlessly integrated into leveled lists and many more spells have been re-balanced to better fit into the progression that Simon has established. Each of these overhaul mods are a great addition to Keizaal and serve to improve on areas of Skyrim without changing it to be completely unrecognizable.

Lawbringer introduces a new layer to dungeon delving. In Vanilla every bandit location would be repopulated with bandits after around 30 days. Lawbringer gives the player some more options when it comes to tackling hostile locations. At certain points around the world you will find a flag in a hostile location. After clearing out all the enemies you can activate the flag and claim the location for a faction of your choice. Any player can claim a location for the government of the hold they are in, but Imperial and Stormcloak players can also claim locations for their respective factions. You can even take a handful places in the Reach for the Forsworn if you met certain quest requirements!

When designing Keizaal I found it important to give the player more choice when it came to accepting or declining quests; I’ve gone to great lengths to give the player more agency as to what goes into their quest journal. The Choice is Yours serves as the backbone of this change. It edits several quests to not trigger until you properly accept them, giving you a lot of control over exactly how cluttered your journal becomes. In addition I use both Somebody Else’s Problem and The Paarthurnax Resolution to give you the option to just say “No!” to Eltrys and Delphine, automatically ending their respective quests before they even properly start. Some may wonder why I don’t use a mod that allows you to continue working with the Blades while also getting to spare Paarthurnax. Simply, I thought it was important to preserve the choice that the player was given in that quest.

I have a series of other gameplay mods that are on a much smaller scale. The kings of this category are EpicCrab (of Lawbringer fame) and Parapets. Both of these authors have a lot of high quality gameplay mods that make neat little changes that have a big impact. EpicCrab’s Forsworn Skinchangers and Forsworn Gravesingers add new enemy types among the Forsworn’s ranks; skinchangers are lycanthropes that swear fealty to Hircine and transform into their beastial form when entering combat and gravesingers are power necromancers that use old plant-based Reach magic to bring creatures back from the dead. Both of these new enemy types are really unique and help to really define the Forsworn and the Reach. Parapets specializes in small questline tweaks aimed at bringing more options to how the player tackles certain situations. Save the Icerunner - Lights Out Alternative Routes is probably my favorite mod that he has made. In Vanilla the Lights Out quest was fairly linear and didn’t have a path for a good character to take (except not doing the quest) but with this mod you have multiple different ways to tackle the situation, even one that results in the Icerunner successfully making it to port in Solitude! Thugs Not Assassins is another great mod by Parapets that changes Hired Thugs to intimidate you rather that try to kill you, after all they are not assassins! There are many other small mods I have from these two authors such as Improved Companions - Questline Tweaks and Contraband Confiscation, but I have hit the big mods, I’ll let you discover the rest for yourself.

Miscellaneous

Now onto our final category: the miscellaneous mods! Now that’s not to say that these mods are any less than the ones I have categorized, quite the opposite, some of my favorite mods are here, rather these don’t fit easily into the sections I have laid out above.

If there is one area that Fallout 4 really improved upon after Skyrim it is in their followers. Skyrim has a ton of companions that can join you on your quests, but the vast majority of them are rather dull and uninspiried. The only Vanilla follower really worth their salt was Serana, and an entire DLC was built around her! Let me introduce Lucien, the best follower mod avalible for Skyrim. Lucien is a young imperial scholar who has come to Skyrim to study the numerous Dwemer ruins in the area. What makes this follower so speical is his fun personality, and legitimate character growth. Lucien will change the longer you travel with him, he may start as a cowardly student but by the end of the game he will be a much more confident warrior-scribe. Additionally Lucien has a ton of quest-related dialouge and conversatiosn that will trigger under certain conditions, he even has integration with a few other mods that will add new banter unique to the mod in question. However, one of my favorite features of Lucien is his conversation he has with other followers. While on the road he may have a few conversations with followers such as Lydia or Delphine, this serves to really cement Lucien into the world and have him feel like he’s there. A lot of follower mods have an issue where the followers feel like phantoms in the world because no one reacts to their presence, Lucien certainly does not have that problem. This is the only follower mod I use and, frankly, the only one I need. Lucien fits perfectly into Skyrim and feels like he could have been part of the game all along, I hope Elder Scrolls VI has companions like Lucien.

opusGlass makes a lot of great creature mods, Keizaal includes both The Falkreath Hauntings and Bogmort - Mud Monsters of Morthal Swamp which both add a lot of atmosphere to their respective locations with these unique new enemies. Howver, my absolute favorite mods of his is the Bloodmoon Creature Restoration Project series. These mods give some much needed love to the island of Solstheim, they overhaul the visuals of the draugr, horkers, and trolls to be more akin to their Morrowind counterparts. What I really love about these mods is how they add more differences between mainland Skyrim and Solstheim. I really want them to feel like two different, but connected, worlds. Briraka’s Draugr Overhaul is a fantastic companion piece to opusGlass’ mods. This mod gives a unique aesthetic to every named boss draugr, Olaf One-Eye looks like a proper one-eyed king now! Additionally it introduces a new high-level draugr, the Winter King, and replaces the Ebony weapons higher tier draugr use with Stalhrim! These two mods really bring a lot of new life to some of the creatures you encounter around the world.

The last few mods I want to highlight bring some uniqueness to some of Skyrim’s reused assets. Unique Uniques, Book Covers Skyrim, and Thrones of Skyrim all give items that used generic assets a beautiful makeover. Really just looking at the modpage will tell you everything you need to know. I can’t imagine playing Skyrim without these mods.

Afterword

I have highlighted only a fraction of the mods available in the list but I do hope this overview gave you a good idea of what to expect when you play Keizaal. If you have any inquiries about the list feel free to @ me on my community Discord server, I’ll do my best to help you out. I hope you enjoy my modlist!