Two horses in Skyrim, modded to look like My Little Pony.

The strange world of Skyrim mods

I’ve never really been much of a game-modder, myself. I’ve always preferred the vanilla experience, half out of laziness, half out of not wanting anything to break my savegames. While some people love getting every ounce out of a game, I always feel some kind of weird desire to play the game as the developer intended. Although, what they usually intend is something for Xbox that gets a PC port, but I digress.

A few blogs recommended the FXAA Post-Processor mod, which I do recommend – it adds a lot of colour to a sometimes washed out game. In the process, I came across a weird and wonderful variety of mods. This is by no means exhaustive!

Clean Female Bodies

Fantasy settings have ladies that are simply too dirty for you? Don’t like the idea of all that unwashed grottyness? The psychoanalysis you could read into this would doubt have no end. It  reminds me of troll arguments about having people of colour in games being some kind of aberration (you can imagine fantasy races and dragons and spell casting, but black skin is out?).  Kristeva’s ideas of the Abject come to mind. The disembodied body meshes on the mod site itself are equally creepy.

A "clean" white woman in a bra and pants in the game Skyrim

Nude Females

Clean bodies not enough for you? NSFW – requires site registration. This is the 11th most popular mod on this site, weirdly enough. It does pretty much what it says, although by the look of it all the breasts and the like are drawn by an amateur modder and look – strange to say the least. Some of the feature lists alone highlights how creepy this mod is:

- New default Argonian texture without nipples (nippled version is optional)
- Corrected belly button placement
- Corrected nipple placement in .msn files
- Removed some blockyness from .msn files
- Dirty and Clean version of the textures, with pubic hair and hairless versions of both
- Khajiit textures: Default version (two nipples) and Alternate Cat version (8 nipples)

Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with in-game nudity. But to default every woman in the game to naked? I mean – what is this supposed to achieve, apart from mild titillation? Again, the psychoanalysts could go nuts here.

Female muscle mod

On a different note, this mod takes it the other way. From the mod notes:

Since nords are supposed to be “big and burly” as one of the devs said… It seemed kinda weird. Men look like bodybuilders and “ofcourse” women look like playboy bunnies (with reasonably sized boobs)… So heres a lil something to make them nordic women look little more formidable.

I have to say this one feels pretty reasonable to me. Does this make me a hypocrite? Of course, the site has some naked shots (why?). I’m no expert too but I’m pretty sure those breasts are unrealistic considering how ripped the models are.

A Nord woman in Skyrim made much more muscular via a user mod. She's wearing leather armour and a quiver.

Yes, there’s some mods to alter the men too, but they’re not nearly so numerous and game changing – mostly they’re part of high def conversion packs.

My Little Pony

OK – so this one is sorta cool. Convert Skyrim horses into My Little Pony livery. I think the picture speaks for itself.

Two horses in Skyrim, modded to look like My Little Pony.

Do you use Skyrim with mods? What are your favourites? Do these mods tell us anything about gamers, or am I over-analysing how people want to play their game?

40 thoughts on “The strange world of Skyrim mods”

  1. To clarify, the general purpose of “nude mods” is not to make everyone naked, they just remove the default underwear. Many people want this so they have more freedom when making and using clothing mods. There are many types, for both males and females. Yes, there are still a lot of horribly sexist ones, and people who want naked women but not naked men (sighhh) but there is a lot else out there too.

      1. Actually, it was very much gender based. The title of the nude mods was almost always “female nude mod”. And I checked – yup, only women. Only recently was there a male nude mod to even select.

    1. Unfortunately after you loot the armor off corpses, they are nude. That can be disturbing, and that’s why I usually don’t use nude mods.

        1. Given the nature of (most of) these nude mods, I think it adds a layer of sexualization to the whole thing that worsens matters considerably, personally.

          There’s a separate conversation in there somewhere about whether game violence in general should be more affecting, but I’m staying out of it.

          1. I’d say the degree of conflation in the sexualization of a nude mod and the violence in the gameplay depends not only in the tone of the mod (in both its “goals” as well as its presentation in-game), but the mind of the gamer running through these scenarios.

            Making this sort of claim when a likely gameplay scenario is to fell a fully-armored female bandit, only seeing “the goods” after looting seems a tad tacked on …!

            But when their full armored coverings are replaced with daedric bikinis, full of pendulous realistically swaying breasts …

    2. I always use nude mods for both sexes, because I usually think there’s something off about the general design of underwear medieval-style fantasy. I don’t know why, I’m just weird like that. Although I find this is very aggravating in Fallout 3/NV when some outfits (Raider armour in particular) show a lot of skin, but when you loot the body, it is mysteriously covered in clean underwear.

      However, it really bothers me that there are several female nude mods within the first two weeks and it’s been some time until we get one male nude mod. It is also bothersome when the female nude bodies are typically the comic book impossible proportions type. And why is there a need to “clean up” the female bodies anyway?

      1. Touching on that last part, whenever a moddable game has dirty or battered women among the first mods are retexes cleaning them up, see also Zoey all dolled up in L4D and various “light touches of makeup” mods in FO:NV

  2. I definitely use Skyrim mods, though my mod preference is bug fixes and making things look overall nicer. I installed the “Less blocky faces”, “better eyes” and FXAA mod. Apart from that, I use a lot of HD texture mods for the environment, armor and weapons. I haven’t looked, but I wish there was a friendly fire mod that made it so friendly NPCs don’t attack you if you happened to hit them in battle. This happens to me when fighting dragons near or in towns and gets annoying.

  3. I think that liking the muscular Nord women mod would only make you a hypocrite if all female body types got equal representation in video games. And unfortunately, that’s not the case at all.

    1. I’m actually kind of psyched to see someone putting out a muscular body type mod. It’s not at all what I would have expected from the typical modding community. No, it’s not a perfect depiction, but at least they’re trying for something other than the clean, white, unrealistically proportioned eye candy archetype.

      1. Yea and (not so) amazingly the commentariat on the Nexus thinks that that mod makes the women ugly and just ruins EVERYTHING!!!!1!!!1one!!

  4. I made a tweet along these lines, only a day after Skyrim was released: “You know what? No. It doesn’t surprise me that there’s already a plethora of Skyrim mods that “fix” the females.” It’s a DAY after Skyrim was out, and there was: nude women, nude women, fix women’s faces, nude women, make the women look clean (yes specifically women!!), nude women, and kill children. Luckily, there is now a nude men mod as well, but back then, Skyrim devs definitely had their priorities in order.

    But yes, I use Skyrim mods! Not a lot. I only used the Simple Boderless Window mod for a while (it allowed me to ALT-TAB out of Skyrim without repercussions), but now I’m going to use the Faster Horses mod, the Craft Lockpicks (5 lockpicks for 1 iron ignot), and the GLOWING ORE! <— omg get that. As soon as I loaded up my game after installing, I immediately saw some ore I had overlooked.

    1. The reason for Nexus being flooded with… well, lets say retexture mods, because why there were a lot of early character design related mods, there were also plenty of mods for armor and equipment retexture simply because the tools for making any more advanced mods than that wasn’t yet available. No special tools at all are required for making textures, so it’s not so much an overabundance of texture mods but a complete lack of anything else.

  5. Holy crap, that muscular Nord woman looks kickass! I don’t often roll female – or melee for that matter – but I just might make an exception here.

    …Also, is it wrong that I kinda wanna grab one of those “kill children” mods?

    I’m not saying I’d make a HABIT of killing them; I’m just saying that sometimes you just really wanna take a moment to set a particularly annoying child aflame, reload your save, and move on.

    …I-in game, obviously.

    1. Nah :P i think it’s a little strange to raise a fuss about that mod unless you’re generally opposed to abusing bits of code altogether. (I’m not big on weighing the worth of adult lives versus childrens’, though, personally) I do think some of the commentary on the mod’s page suggests unpleasant things about some of the people *using* the mod, but that’s true of…well, any game that lets you fake-murder person-shaped things and most especially mods for said games, I guess. It can get a little weird/gross when people insist on being able to kill particular folks, but on the whole I think it falls under the same heading of compartmentalized nonsense as most gaming stuff.
      Like, if I say I sometimes want to punt Ulfric off his throne and into a fiery pit that doesn’t particularly mean I go off and do that sort of thing on the weekends, just that the character irritated me. :P

      …that got away from me.
      Anyway – yeah, that muscular Nord mod is indeed pretty neat! I was rather disappointed with the effects of the ‘size/build’ slider on the female models.

      1. Oh! What’s wrong, do they cause clipping? D:

        And I only recently got Skyrim, so I’m soooo looking forward these amazing things I’m gonna get to try :D

        Y’know, about the beautifying mods… as much as I like how sinister my Conjuration mage looks, I can’t say I’d mind making my character a prettyboy twink. That’s just how I roll. Not that the modders are gonna be jumping on that any time soon. xD

        1. “the modders”. You know this is like saying “gamers”, right? Yes, many modders are male and into stereotypically pretty ladies. The market is big for that, and a lot of mods get made.

          But there are also tons of lady modders, queer modders, kinky modders, genderqueer modders.

          I know many modders who will make pretty boy twinks. And a million other things too! You might not find them on the main mod sites, or forums, because they are the equivalent of kotaku, and yeeeah, a lot of us would rather not hang out there. There are other spaces, if you look. :)

          1. Pardon me; you’re quite right. I suppose I’ve become so resigned to a storm of nude mods and gaudy anime silliness that I’ve just stopped looking.

            Any suggstions of where to start, by any chance? :3

            1. I’d second any suggestions on where to find good mods, pretty please. I can’t seem to work the Google magic to find them on my own.

            2. I would start looking in January when proper mod tools are released.

              On the topic of killable children (and fast and plain nude mods), I don’t mind them for immersion. Kids aren’t protected by the nine divines any more than the Septim line was and seeing them as lone (crime reporting) survivors to village-raising blazes is just odd.

              But think back to the days of Fallout where killing a kid got you branded for life a s a child killer, I can’t help but think that one model effectively grants a point, where another one forces it.

            3. Well, first of all, the CS isn’t out yet, so the kind of mods people can make are fairly limited right now. Also, quick’n'trashy mods will be the order of the day for a while yet, as skilled work takes more time.

              Regarding good mod sites, I could have told you a few years back, but I’m a bit out of the loop for Skyrim. I asked a friend who should be more In The Know than me, will post if she gets back to me. I’d keep an eye on Slof’s Hive (google it) for sexy male clothing/mods though, I’m sure Slof will come through on that score!

            4. Oh, sorry, misread that, Disregard the clipping thing if you don’t mind.

              And I totally forgot about the current lack of modding tools; forgive me, I get mixed up on occasion. I’ll be sure to keep on eye on that site though, Kateri! Some of the mods there are a tad explicit for my tastes, but others are very, very cool. I look forward to seeing what’ll be available there.

  6. One of the joys of Bethesda type games is going “Hmm, I wish this thing can also do that thing. I’m gonna have a look at the Nexus.”

    Also good for fixing quest bugs. And getting backpacks. I love backpacks.

    1. Lol, I assume all 350lbs of stuff my character lugs around goes into that little mini-satchel on the back of her armor.

      1. But what if the armour doesn’t have a mini-satchel?

        I guess the only reasonable explanation is that your character is secretly Batman.

        1. It’s crazier for the berserker types who run around nekkid. Where do they store it? Utility Loincloths?

  7. You think the “clean bodies for the ladies~” mod is bad, just look at this default face replacer that came out recently. http://www.skyrimnexus.com/downloads/file.php?id=2812

    Because if Skyrim was missing something it was every female from the lowest begger to the highest queen to have ten tons of make on their face with not a wrinkle or crease in the skin in sight!

    Sometimes I really hate the internet

    1. It is truly disappointing to know that even if developers were to do something right, people are just going to “fix” it back to crap.

    2. Who wouldn’t want to gussy up before they go dragon slaying? The amount of cognitive dissonance going on, were it food, energy, or money, would be enough to end many major problems in the world today. I know that the modular nature of Bethesda games is to be praised, but seriously, I wish people would stop using their Legos this way.

  8. Game mods are so depressingly predictable. It’s funny, I finally got Dragon Age 2 last week, and about midway through the first act, I decided to look for some environment mods. So I head over to Dragon Age Nexxus, and of course in the top 25 mods, like, 10 of them are nude/sex/explicit armor retextures. At that point, I’d gotten pretty attached to my Lady Hawke and her companions, and I was so grossed out to see my badass rogue stripped down to just a sex object, literally and figuratively. I consider myself fairly desensitized to that sort of thing, so I was surprised how, well, repellent I found it. Needless to say, I somehow restrained myself from downloading those, but I did snatch up a nice pants mod for poor, bare-assed Isabella, who must have been freezing.

    Anyway, I give it a month before someone comes up with a ‘realistic’ sex mod for Skyrim, if it hasn’t happened already. Which, whatever, who am I to judge how folks get their rocks off, but it kind of just makes me confused, mostly because those mods don’t ever seem to aim to improve relationship mechanics or player immersion at all, just pornifying everything. I mean, they clearly have internet access. Cartoon porn is just a Google search away, folks, and it’s a lot less work and will probably look better.

    1. I love the pants mod for Isabela! Because otherwise, just… really? :\ And I think it looks nice on the outfit.

  9. I dunno. I found that I modded the crap out of Oblivion (the big name being OOO, Francisco’s and MMM) as that game needed a ton of work to get into a playable state.

    Morrowind before that I had a ton of cosmetic mods making the game better, cities more alive and so on. Also gave myself a sweet house.

    FO3 and New Vegas I modded less, probably because I figured less was wrong. Always trended towards new weapons and armor. As you can buy houses in those games (and Skyrim and oblivion) I placed the new house mods into the “cheating” category.

    Eventually a bunch of nice mods get released to fix weird bugs and optimize the game to just plain run better. I’ll keep a separate mod list for immersion-breaking crazy weapons and armor, but what I’m after is a better core game before I staple weird crap to it.

    1. I like my mages buff and my fighters lithe. Probably a portion of that is my rebellious streak against tropes/stereotypes of what a class *should* be. The other is, hey, my mage may spend hours studying books, but s/he also can run around the library and do some arm curls with those heavy staves s/he carries.

      1. The anime Rune Soldier might appeal to you if you can get past the blatant sexism in much of it… the main character is a male mage who’s primary skill is being awesomely buff and punching stuff :).

        1. Haha, that sounds potentially entertaining! Thanks for the heads up. On a related note, it is very, very rare to see a male mage/healer as the main character of a game as well. Unfortunately.

  10. I love games that give modding tools. I really like seeing what the community can churn out. There are many great roleplay campaign mods, fully-voiced companion mods, beautiful environment and bug fixing mods, amazing player house HQ mods… so many wonderful things! Then, of course, you get the really disappointing and headshake-worthy and sexualization mods. I’m still rubbing my head over things like the Lovers mod thing for Oblivion and the big Prostitution (sex trade/pimping/sex working) mod for FO3+NV.

    Anywho, I do enjoy model mods that help the proportions and bodies look better, offer more variety of choices, higher res textures, and that sort of thing. When a nude mod only offers, like, pendulous udderboobs and barbie waist with hips that flare beyond the pale, then I have no interest in that crap. That is pure fanwankery. But nude mods that, say, get rid of the weird bodysuit underwear some games use, or fix the anatomy proportions that poor artist/modeling designers did for the official product… etc. Armors and clothing looks better on the rigs, then, and cinematics (if there are any) look better in close-up shots and so forth.

    Good male body mods/nude mods/tweaked rigs are quite rare, true. Unfortunate as that is. But I will say in recent years that modders working on such mods are on the increase compared to the days of Neverwinter 1.

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