Modding basics for new users

For Bethesda's games (The Elder Scrolls series, Fallout)
A simple guide & explanation for new users.

To start with, 99% of the mods (even big ones, like DLC-sized ones; including the official DLCs!) are installed in your game's directory (specifically 'data' folder). I will use Skyrim as an example in this article, but most of this article applies to other Bethesda games.

You game directory is where you can find the main .exe file for your game. In case with Skyrim, it's the folder where you can find SkyrimLauncher.exe and TESV.exe:

Most people use Steam, so the path to the game would be Steam\steamapps\common\Skyrim. Meaning, you can determine your game's location just by knowing your Steam's location. However, if you installed your game in a different folder (and for whatever reason have trouble finding it), you can open your Steam's library:

And it's the Data where 99% of the mods go:

Right-click on the game's title (in this case, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim), Manage -> Browse local files. This will open the game's folder.

In this folder, you have Data:

Even official DLCs! So:

1. Download the mod archive,

2. Extract it using any program (7zip, WinRAR, etc.),

3. Open the mod folder,

4. Let's stop here. There are files and folders that always go in Skyrim\Data:

It's mainly Meshes, Textures, Sound, Scripts.

But it also could be DialogueViews, Interface, Music, SEQ folders, etc.

.bsa files are packed loose files (same Meshes, Textures & others).

.esp and .esm files - these are "active" mod files that modify the game parameters which (most of the time) cannot be changed without changing\adding something in Creation Kit. For example, adding new armors, quests or changing texture paths to character skins all requires an .esp (or .esm)!

However, in some mods like retextures .esp or .esm files are often not needed, so if you don't find them in the archive - don't be confused.

The difference between an .esp and .esm is in priority. .esm files are "master-files" which means:

- .esm are always loaded first and therefore are overwritten by any conflicting changes in any.esp file, that is loaded later,

- and some .esp (addons, patches) can be dependent on .esm.

- Moreover, .esm can include more edits than an .esp.

So, if you find your mod folder with these contents:




You should copy all these folders and files to Skyrim\Data.

5. After that you should turn the mod on in the launcher (if .esp\.esm files are present).

- push "play" in Steam or manually run SkyrimLauncher.exe from Skyrim directory or load up your preferred mod manager,

- click "Data files"

- and then find and activate Example.esp. Done!

A bit more info on folders.

Meshes are 3D-models (optimized for the game engine, of course). These things (showing characters meshes, but it can be a book, a sword, or a cup, a wine bottle - anything you see in game):

Meshes can cause a variety of issues, often connected to a character's skeleton. If you see your character unnaturally stretched into the sunset, that's a skeleton\model issue.

That means that either the mesh isn't 'weighted' (conntected) correctly to the skeleton bones, or that your installed skeleton is lacking the necessary bones for that mesh. That's often the issue with female clothes and armor.

Textures are flat (2D) images that wrap around models. Which is why textures may look weird, like this:

These, of course, are not all models and textures types that exist, but for the sake of simplicity let's not dive into details.

Together they make what you see in the game! Like this:

Sometimes textures are missing, for example:

- the archive is corrupt;

- the filepaths are wrong because some folder name is mispelled; example would be:


when it should be:


- the filepaths are wrong in the model itself. You can fix this in Nifskope which requires some tinkering, but better if you report this issue to the author of the mesh. However, if you experience issues with, say, an armor and you use some additional mods on top, like CBBE adaptation of said armor, and the original mod doesn't have this issue, you need to contact the author of the adaptation you use;

- literally anything that prevents the game from locating the textures. At this point it can be anything, from broken save game to broken .esp files, etc etc.

In all cases you may see something like this:

That's because textures are missing. If you experience this issue when you equip a piece of armor, that means some texture paths are wrong or textures are missing for that specific model (see above what to do).

If the textures go black, that means that VRAM is overloaded. To fix this you need to remove some of your retextures or lower the texture quality; or increase the amount of VRAM (update your PC); or, the most common issue is when you use enboost\enb you've applied incorrect settings. Click here to see how to apply a correct value.

If the game doesn't load when you install some textures (only textures! no meshes!), then the textures are too heavy for your PC or using the wrong format. The cure is the same: removing other retextures (if you can load the game with just the new mod) or - alternatively - lowering the game resolution. If you can't load the game even with this single problematic retexture, then try lowering the resolution. If you can't use it after that, generally speaking, blame the retexture.

Make sure this retexture doesn't have other dependencies, in which case...

If the game doesn't load when you install meshes and textures, the range of possible issues grow, and most of the time it's the meshes that are causing trouble; especially with grass and trees.

But generally it's just a matter of installing and uninstalling.

Sound folder is used to store sounds. These sometimes may cause issues, if the sound files are corrupt or too heavy for your game! Usually if the issues are present your game just crashes whenever a certain sound is played.

Same can be said about Music.

Interface is, obviously, about interface, athlough interface icons are usually stored in Textures.

Scripts folder stores all scripts that are needed the mod to function. Skyrim's running Python. It's a programming language.

To put it simply: script languages are necessary for automation of programming tasks. For Skyrim it's literally every in-game action. If you draw a sword, sprint or doing quest in-game - that's all scripts.

So if a modmaker wants to add any new action to the game, this will require scripts (vanilla scripts or writing a completely new script).

Don't be afraid of mods that use scripts! Skyrim is already full of various scripts; and no, these in-game scripts aren't perfect (Unofficial Patch exists for a good reason).

SEQ folder is there to help 'quests' that should be running from the very beginning. Those are not necessarily quests you play, but (for example) scripts that run in the background while you play, to monitor the environment to apply correct visual effects on your character.

Scripts can, however, cause a plethora of issues, mostly because of conflicts. You may be unable to complete a quest (can happen without any mods), some things may not work as intented, your game might crash (without error), etc..

Some exceptions to the rule of "everything goes to Data folder":

ENB, ReShade, SKSE. Plugins with .dll-s that aren't placed in SKSE folder, like 3D Sound mod for Skyrim.

And please read the decription the mod authors provide you with. It carries necessary information, such as mod requirements and specifically states which files should go where.

If you want to go "in detail", I'd recommend reading a guide. The most comprehensive one for Skyrim is S.T.E.P:

Installing mods manually is fine when you only run a few simple ones, but sometimes it's just isn't enough. That's when Mod Managers roll in! Choose whatever you like.

I personally would recommend using Mod Organizer. Vortex, at the moment of writing this article, is still really unstable and just inferior when compared to Mod Organizer.

Piece of advice when you submit an issue (to a modmaker directly or to a community):

- be informative, don't be vague,

- provide a screenshot if you can,

- provide your mod list if you can.

You'll solve your issue much quicker that way.

That's it. That was (I hope) an informative guide for people who are new to modding (as a user).

This guide, and issues described in it, can be applied to all Bethesda games, from Morrowind to Fallout 4. I can't (obviously) describe every bug that occurs, that's just the basics of what does what. I personally was really tired of people mix models and textures as the same thing.