Last updated Oct. 11, 2009
Mythic Mods >> Gluby's Comprehensive Guides >> Main Guide
Short version: This is a series of guides designed to effectively walk a player through making the more important "infrastructural" mod choices, so as to get a game from freshly-installed to a state of being playably modded to one's preferences. It is designed for both experienced and beginning players, and covers important categories of mods (typically, the types that have significant impact on gameplay and cannot be easily added or removed from an ongoing game) that do not receive as much coverage as, say, texture replacers. If you have read up on how to install mods and other such tutorials, or already know all that already, and are looking for a starting point to setting up a genuine play installation without having to research each individual mod choice, this, I hope, will be what you're looking for. If you are impatient and wish to skip to the good part, feel free to skip the rest of the introduction and start at The First Step: Patches and Bugfixes, although I, of course, recommend reading it for a fuller understanding of what to expect.
"I spent enough time looking for mods to completely lose interest in Morrowind."
"I always wanted to give a heavily modded Morrowind a try but somehow I can't bring myself to spend 2 weeks to go through all of these mods and figure out how to convince them to coexist peacefully."
—Fairly typical forum comments about Morrowind. [Source.]
It really is a problem. There is a dazzlingly enormous body of mod content out there for Morrowind, put out by an unbelievably talented and creative community of artists and modders. (I'm not giving idle praise or flattery, either; while there is some fairly pedestrian work out there, as well as some positively awful stuff, there is a surprisingly large amount that equals or exceeds professional quality. And from my experience, the community is active, open and helpful; just post a "where do I start?" post in the modding forums and watch the helpful replies start rolling in to see what I mean).
However, the problem is that, even with an active and helpful community, the tutorials, the lists, the forum archives, and all the other resources available, the actual content is simply overwhelming, and easy to get lost in. Then throw in the fact that many resources and mods are obsolete and not a few links broken, and much has indeed changed.
Here's how it tends to go: whether you're a longtime player and modder, or just starting out and getting a handle on things, you end up spending many hours tinkering, trying out mods by trial-and-error, having to reinstall the game several times, dealing with frustrating incompatibilities and corrupted savegames. In fact, you never getting around to playing an actual long-term game for pleasure, and likely eventually drop the whole thing in discouragement or lost interest. And all of this, despite the fact that all the answers are "out there" in the forums, available to the intrepid researcher.
But Morrowind, first and foremost, is a game, not a research project.
To resolve occasional problems and questions, specific forum and Internet searches are ideal and effective. But to do it on every issue, every category of mod, from the ground up?
The purpose of this series of guides is to provide a solid starting point, for beginning to advanced players (after all, the barrier here is time and effort, not skill or technical know-how), on building up a custom-modded play installation of Morrowind best suited to one's play style, without weeks of research. The goal is to bring together a group of comprehensive and mutually-supporting guides that make it easy, or at least reasonably so, bringing together available information, or providing original information either difficult to find or just not available elsewhere, in a form actually and immediately useful.
In these guides I primarily cover the most important "infrastructural" categories of mods, or, more broadly, the pervasive mods that have wide-reaching effect on the game—metaphorically speaking, the big rocks you put in the jar first, to make sure they fit, after which you put in all the little rocks. These are, perhaps not so ironically, categories about which there is likely to be much confusion. Indeed, on these often-unglamorous gameplay-oriented mods, there is much less guidance out there than, say, visual upgrades. And what guidance there is, is incomplete, obsolete, and spread out in many places.
In these guides I attempt to fill the gap, covering areas in which one is most likely to run into the need for tedious research and forum posts. In these guides, I have done the research, checked out the mods, and have done my best to bring it all together into one place in a way that shows how it actually fits together, allowing the reader to make informed decisions without reinventing wheels and wasting hours, days, weeks, running into the same problems everyone else has, haphazardly testing mods, starting new games over and over. These guides, hopefully, enable the reader to move on to the more enjoyable content choices and, as we say, playing the damned game.
Before I go on, however, a caveat as to what I mean by "beginning players." In this guide, I assume you at least know the basics, have played around with the game a bit, and have done some homework already and have played a bit with Wrye Mash's mod installation management features. While I try to avoid lingo, I do assume you need no instructions when I write, "install the mod," even if the files are not nicely and neatly packaged correctly (as they often are not), and that you are at least to the point at which are ready to start learning about merging objects and leveled lists. If this does not describe you, you may find some of the guides here useful, but you really should make sure and take a little time to get the basics down. Ronin49's Starting Out With Mods is a great place to start.
In some cases, I provide original information, screenshot comparisons and feature summary tables from my own testing and poking around with mod editors, where nothing similar was available elsewhere. And in some cases I provide links to other community resources that can provide further information or choices. But in every case I am, of course, building upon the painstaking work of others.
As an example, in the category of herbalism mods (a must-have, as will be seen), there are seven major mods to choose from, almost all of which are mutually exclusive, and ten minor mods that that affect much of the same subject matter and sometimes conflict with one or more of the major mods. When I started, I was at a total loss as to which one to pick, and yet I quite wanted several of them that seemed to possibly conflict with each other. Thus, a good example of the kind of guides I aim to integrate into a single work is my Comprehensive Herbalism Mods Catalog and Guide, in which I give feature comparisons, obsolescence reports, screenshots, bug and conflict warnings, and other information, much obtained from personal testing and examination of the mods in the CS (Construction Set), MWEdit and in-game.
At this point, I should say what this guide is not.
It is not a list of links or a mod list, not a mere reference tool, or a springboard for further research. There are plenty of those, and they are quite valuable for their purpose (indeed, I have drawn on them heavily for these guides).
It is also not a complete catalogue of all mods. There are two major groups of mods I quite specifically avoid, for the most part. First, I do not cover mods like quest mods, house mods, and mods that add specific weapons, armor and clothing—these types of mods are of highly-subjective appeal and can be relatively easily added and removed from a game according to preference. (Plus, there are tons of them.) Second, I do not cover the kinds of mods for which there already exist excellent and comprehensive guides and tutorials—visual upgrades, for example—though I may reference them for the reader's sake. (I don't want to reinvent perfectly good wheels, either, after all.)
This series of guides is not a set of reviews or subjective opinions as to which of two equally-viable options are preferable, though I do report problems and quality issues that I discover, such as bugs, conflicts, immersion-breaking grammatical gaffes, and so forth. Rather, I endeavor to give the pros, cons, and appeals of each, and often address the weight of community opinion on a mod.
A disclaimer. I am not a modder or game designer, and my real-life knowledge, training and experience are quite irrelevant to any of this. In my role here, I am a player trying to make the sort of resource I would have wished for, starting out. I have no specialized knowledge except having tracked and collected Morrowind mods for quite a while, trying to figure out how to fit it all together into a game I can play all the way through. This started out as notes I made for myself, and later decided to expand and put it in a form that could help others. If I have been successful, these guides should save you quite a bit of time and tedium, enabling you to get a lot more enjoyment out of Morrowind and the mods people have made for it.
I have not tested most of the mods I cover extensively; this is more of a pragmatic research project than anything, so I cannot promise I make no mistakes.
If you find that I have made any errors or mischaracterizations, know of a mod in some category I missed, have advice or warnings about a particular mod that you think others should know about ahead of time, have a fuller or better explanation for something I address, or have any other constructive criticism, by all means please do contact me (either at the e-mail address below or through the Mythic site administrators) and slap it to me. I am not touchy, and am more than likely to greatly appreciate it.
The absolute first order of business in getting a freshly-installed game of Morrowind (or any game, really, for that matter) up to speed is to get it patched up with the latest official and unofficial (but community-standard) patches.
As of the writing of this guide, the two major community patches are still being actively maintained and updated. The following guide is both an introductory guide with the current state of things and links, and a reference for later perusal and checking:
After getting the most imporant of patches, the next order of business is the essential "infrastructural" mods that broadly affect the basic gameplay and the game experience.
Morrowind is playable without these mods, but the areas of gameplay and user interface they address are areas that tend to be universally recognized as frustrating, tedious, poorly-thought-out, poorly-implemented, or otherwise in need of fixing. To go again with my previous example, one would likely be hard-put to find a player who recommends the unmodified "vanilla" Morrowind system of harvesting alchemical ingredients from plants (Herbalism), as it makes harvesting plants require much repetitive pointing and clicking that significantly slows down the game.
It is quite safe to install, try out and remove them as desired to get a feel for them (Wrye Mash makes this very easy and safe), but it is wise to do this and make your mod choices in these categories early and with care, before you start a long-term game to which you intend to get attached. These mods tend to be more unfriendly than others about being removed from an ongoing game (and some will absolutely require you to start a new game). Be picky; do not just go with the first one that sounds good in the description and assume you will like it.
As a side note and reminder, always read the readme for mods—there are always little twists that should be understood and pitfalls of which to be aware, particularly with these sorts of mods. And, likewise, do not install all your preferred mods in a batch unless you know exactly what you are doing and how they interact; install them one at a time and make sure each works before moving on to the next.
In the unmodified game, the beginning tutorial is not skippable, no matter how many times you bang ESC; you must face it every time you start a new game.
This guide covers mods that alter the beginning of the game and the character generation (CharGen) process. They not only allow you to skip the tutorial, but some provide alternate beginning locations and situations, allow customization of the character's starting stats and skills, and provide other starting options.
It also includes an appendix on major race and birthsign mods.
Morrowind's default leveling and stat gain system (and some argue Health/hit point system as well) is set up in such a way that the player has to either tediously plan it out and grind away at certain activities irrelevant to the actual smooth and immersive play of the game, or accept a maldeveloped character.
This is not an MMO. Though some enjoy it as is, there are many who feel that the default character development system in Morrowind is frustrating and disruptive to gameplay.
These mods modify the character development system, and range in their effect from merely smoothing its rough edges for those who enjoy the system as is, to virtually replacing it. All of them reduce or eliminate the need to micromanage skill gain for those who would prefer to be able to smoothly and naturally play the game while still retaining its basic elements and challenge.
The magic system in Morrowind is, by most accounts, poorly-balanced for magic-focused characters, leaving them woefully underpowered. There are two primary reasons for this: (1) Magicka (Morrowind's counterpart to "mana" or "spell points" in other games) is used up quickly and does not regenerate without overfrequent resting, and (2) Morrowind's skill gain system is effectively biased against the development of certain magic skills, making them notoriously difficult to improve without methods that are effectively cheap tricks.
Many consequently find it essential to use a Magicka regeneration mod of some sort or some other sort of mod that makes Magicka recovery more practical. (And even in Bethesda's next entry in The Elder Scrolls series, Oblivion, the developers made Magicka regenerate.)
There are a good variety of such mods that cater to different play-styles; this guide will help you choose one to fit yours.
The guide also includes an appendix covering mods that make major changes to magic use and spell effects (including how NPCs use them).
Herbalism (i.e. gathering plant, animal, and mineral ingredients from the wild for potion-making, selling and other purposes) is an important and appealing part of the game. Unfortunately, in the vanilla game, herbalism is tedious because of the way it is implemented—plants are "opened" in the same way that a corpse is, and require the player to move the mouse to the "Take All" button each time. A good herbalism mod is almost essential; once you go herbalism-modded, you'll never go back.
This guide also has an appendix covering other related mods, including mods that affect the gathering or availability of mineral resources (mining, for example), pearl-diving, and animal parts.
It's a rather simple issue, really, but it's ugly. The way magic items shimmer, commonly known as the plastic wrap sheen or glow effect, is embarrassingly bad-looking, and was referred to by one player as the "Suran Wrap." The inventory icon background for magic items offers no solace from this visual assault, either, presenting an overpowering blue swirl that obscures the actual item graphic. Most players strongly dislike both, and a perhaps-not-so-surprising amount of energy has gone into different ways of mitigating both effects.
This guide covers mods that eliminate, reduce or change the magic item shimmer visual and icon background.
It also includes covers mods that affect other common magic visuals, such as the "magic egg" Shield spell effect and the colors assigned to different schools of magic for their respective visual effects.
If you have the Tribunal expansion (released as an expansion but also built into the Game of the Year edition), you'll notice frequent interruption assassination attempts, while you sleep, by poorly-skilled but expensively-equipped Dark Brotherhood assassins. In fact, you are probably running around in DB armor, with another 3 or 4 sets of it in your pack trying to find a merchant with enough gold to buy them from you.
The DB attacks in vanilla Morrowind/Tribunal are poorly implemented for a number of reasons you can read about in this guide. The guide covers a number of mods that make the DB assassination aspect of the game logical, non-upsetting to game balance, and even exciting and fun.
These rest of the guides below guides are still in development.
This category of mods covers major creature and wildlife mods. Several of the larger creature mods effectively constitute sweeping alterations to game balance and feel, and, like some other categories, should not be added or removed lightly to an existing game.
This guide covers mods that systemically add or alter large amounts of new or existing creatures and enemy NPCs. Several of them make the game significantly more difficult, and some make changes or additions to other areas of the game.
This is a more in-depth to mods that add companion animals, though, like Orwell's Animal Farm, it does not include companion animals of the two-legged humanoid variety.
Admittedly not even arguably infrastructural, this in-depth guide treats in detail those mods which add dragons to the game.
This category covers, first, enhancements and extenders for the Morrowind game engine, and, second, visual enhancements such as landscape texture replacers, face and body upgrades, mods that add improved grass and trees, and other similar enhancements. These enhancements have become an important part of setting up an enjoyable game, and many of them open up a whole new world of enhanced gameplay and visuals.
However, like the other types of mods, there are a lot of them. The following guides offer relatively recent and up-to-date information and/or comparisons. In some cases I link to guides by other members of the community which I have found admirably useful and well-organized.
There are a number of replacers and high-resolution upgrades for every sign, banner, tapestry, placard, and rug in the game. This guide provides a catalogue of them, complete with comparison images.
By today's standards, the art for player and non-player character heads in the stock game are terribly dated. There is a surprisingly variety of head-replacer mods available that replace the default panoply of player and NPC heads with upgraded head models and textures made by the community. It can be a difficult choice.
The best and most up-to-date resource for choosing a head-replacer I have found is AfroKing's "NPC Head Replacer" Comparison Thread, which gives well-done comparison screenshot collages allowing the reader to get a sense of what each is like. Check it out and try one out.
If you have followed along with this guide and chosen your basic mods, you've got all the fundamentals taken care of and have the basic game fine-tuned to your preferences and eminently playable.
But from here, the rest of the world of mods is out there. If you still have energy left for this sort of thing, you can now focus on what actual content you may wish to add, from whole new landmasses and expanded cities to a cottage (or mansion, or castle, or evil mastermind's cavern) in which to keep your extra ash yams and Daedric Right Pauldrons. From new dungeons and quests to a sheathable, reflection-mapped katana and a leather catsuit to run around in.
To give some guidance, I have selected a handful of selected links to catalogues, guides, lists and other helpful references below. This section is new, very incomplete, and will be expanding as I go.
Resources for Avoiding (and Easily Fixing) General Mod Conflicts
A simple but extremely helpful excel spreadsheet containing over 2,100 mods that lists potential problems in each (dirty refs, GMSTs, changes not indicated in the mod's description or documentation, etc.). It is a good practice to check that new mod you downloaded against this list, as you can save a lot of headaches.
It also contains a number of short-and-sweet documents that explain in plain language what these problems actually mean, what effect they have, and how to quickly and easily fix them in the case that a mod, say, has dirty refs, but you would still like to use it.
Resources for Avoiding Landmass Mod Conflicts
The Morrowind Mod Grid Use Map is a graphical utility done in Excel that contains a visual grid map of Morrowind that allows you to cross-reference which mods affect that area of the landscape (or seascape). It is a convenient and easy way of checking for mod conflicts.
A general mod conflicts listing that has been well-maintained and is extremely useful for figuring out whether different landmass mods conflict with each other.
A visual map showing the placement of many landmass mods, extremely useful in avoiding conflicts. The link to Cryonaut's map shown on the Mod Conflicts Listing at Galahaut's Wiki, above, is broken. This link, provided to me by Eightball_Maniac, is valid.
An older map similar to Cryonaut's, Nerra's Mod Conflict Map is outdated but may still be useful.
These guides were inspired and informed by the lists and tutorials written here at Mythic Mods, and this project, to a large extent, build upon the work of Telesphoros, Ronin49, OldeCow69, Tarnsman, and others who contributed to that site. A big thanks to the Mythic team for their work, and for hosting these guides.
Thanks to OldeCow69 for ongoing editorial help and assistance with HTML reformatting, and, of course, for hosting these guides.
Thanks to the ES Forums community for information provided and questions answered, with particular thanks to the following: BoggyTheClown, Dragon32, Eightball_Maniac, Jinnai, Miran, Predator_King, Ronin49, Rougetet, and Symon69.
And, of course, thanks to those whose who have shared their time, energy and talent with the community in making and releasing these mods.
Modify and Redistribute, Share Alike.
I believe in collective contribution and endeaver (what Wrye calls the Cathedral model). Any and all of my work in connection with the Morrowind modding community may be freely reproduced, distributed, expanded, built upon, incorporated, and otherwise used for the good of the community and the individuals of which it consists, without the need for permission, so long as the resulting final product is distributed under the same terms. I, of course, very much appreciate courtesies, props and credit and all that, if what I've done is helpful, but I'll get on without it.
Things Not Subject to My Permissions: On the other hand, any linked materials and resources not of my own original authorship are subject, of course, to the wishes of their respective creators or maintainers.
Central Maintenance: While I am still maintaining these guides actively, I reserve the right to be the central maintainer of them. If I fail to respond to communications for, say, two months, such that it appears I have left it dangling, the Mythic Mods team is free to continue, update, maintain, convert, incorporate, or archive them as they see fit.
Archiving/Posting/Redistribution Elsewhere: That said, these guides may be archived or posted elsewhere (such as forum or a web site), or compiled into a distributable document (such as a distributable PDF or other such document), so long as (1) it is made clear that the archived / posted / distributed version is a copy that may not be the most updated version, and (2) it prominently shows the Last Updated date and link at the top to the main document here at Mythic Mods. (The purpose of this being to avoid confusion and old versions becoming bum scoop.) Please feel free to exclude versioning notes from your hosted copy, if you like. The Permissions section(s) can be replaced in any dynamic version (i.e., forum thread, web page and the like) so long as it has a quick blurb informing the reader where to find Permissions information. In the event that someone wishes to redistribute one or more in the form of a static version (i.e. PDF, RTF and so forth), I ask that you include the Permissions section of this main guide at the rear of the document, though the Permissions and Feedback sections of sub-guides can be omitted.
I welcome feedback. Corrections, suggestions, things I've missed, broken links, additional information that would be useful, better technical explanations, hey-that's-kinda-obtuse-writing and all other kinds of feedback help me to make these guides better, so don't hold back. I'm not touchy.
I can be contacted at the Bethesda ES Forums, or by e-mail using the Contact Us links on these pages.
Mythic Mods >> Gluby's Comprehensive Guides >> Main Guide