post updated to consider Special Edition, recent Unofficial Skyrim Patch changes, and edited to be more concise
The “Unofficial Skyrim Patch” (USkP), or newer “Unofficial Skyrim Legendary Edition Patch” (USLeEP) (USSEP for Special Edition), is a mod dedicated to fixing bugs and errors within The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (TES V) by Bethesda Game Studios. The TES chapters are known for amusing bugs, Daggerfall taking the top (bottom?) spot in teaching us to save the game often especially before opening a door. The USkP fixes content bugs never resolved by the official game patches, however the USkP also includes changes to gameplay and lore along with added content. Those primarily looking for just fixes may want to give the USkP some careful consideration first. Some players may wish to investigate to patch out undesirable changes.
According to team member, Arthmoor, “A bug is defined for our purposes as a defect in the game that can be factually proven to be broken.” This statement may not extend to deciphering original intent, but I’d like to think maintaining original gameplay should be a goal. As I’ll show in the examples below some changes lack solid evidence or can be directly disproven by TES game material. Arthmoor admits to making judgement calls, and USkP is their mod in the end. Like any mod, the player may patch override their own adjustments including reverting changes back to original.
One former USkP user (Setitimer) mentions on reddit that after v1.3, USkP started adding too many non-bug changes causing mod-compatibility issues and breaking the game. On forum.step-project.com, kryptopyr, Kuldebar, and others point out that adding content should be left to other mods. A few others share their complaints on forums.nexusmods including Writhes’s comment, “Things like fortify restoration, necromage, the added armor to the smithing menu, etc. These are all very disputable changes that should be obvious candidates for being separated.”
Find a list of all changes in the USkP/USLeEP version history log (or USSEP history log). I encourage you to review the change log and bug reports and make your own decisions including patching out any disagreeable changes. It’s your game.
I’ve selected several interesting changes for review based on lack of supporting evidence or opinionated reason regardless if I agree or disagree with the change.
1. Ebony Blade made improvable at smithy (v1.0)
This change hurts the mystique of this sword. The Ebony Blade is a deadric-serving (Mephala a.k.a. Whispering Lady) weapon permanently improved by murdering trusting allies; friends. Mephala offers temptation for power through a moral test. Improving the sword by mundane means at a grindstone removes the moral decision and breaks the story. This should be evidence enough of original intent. Found beside the sword is a note, Admonition Against Ebony. Not proof in itself, but given the sword can’t be improved at a smithy, the note supports the restriction by stating “Not even the hottest fires of the Skyforge could melt it; indeed the coals themselves seemed to cool when it was placed within.”
A player offered a similar argument about this change on AFK Mods, and Arthmoor replied the decision was not about balance and cited the tips shown during the loading screen as reason for the change. The tip states, “Any weapon or piece of armor can be improved at a smithy, regardless of the material type or the smith’s skill or perks. Smithing perks increase how much the item is improved.” This tip reminds players that the perk isn’t required to improve the relevant item.
Taking a tip out of context is shaky evidence at best, and doesn’t meet Arthmoor’s policy on “factually proven to be broken” except perhaps in the very loosest sense. Given that armor at maximum rating can’t be effectively improved, and a low skill prevents further improvement, both contradicting the load-screen message, then we should assume certain unique items may be at their best. Or without a special improvement method as is the case with the Ebony Blade.
If there’s a problem here at all it is with the wording of the tip.
I doubt many players would be confused by being unable to improve the Ebony Blade at a smithy given its special means for improvement. Deceive friends by murder to improve the blade further, and by no other means. That’s what gives the Ebony Blade such mystique.
Other items made improvable
- Masque of Clavicus Vile (v1.0)
- Jagged Crown (v1.0)
- Shield of Ysgramor (v1.0)
- Drainheart Sword, Drainblood Battleaxe, Drainspell Bow (v1.0)
- Amulet of Articulation (v1.0)
- Ancient Nordic Pickaxe, Hoarfrost, and Champion’s Cudgel (bug #12554)
Making silver swords improvable may break an Atronoch Forge recipe (unconfirmed). Again, nothing broken about these items changed based on opinion.
2. Black soul gems restricted (v2.0.1; bug #14194)
There’s an obvious bug here, but with uncertain intent. I included this example due to presenting questionable reasoning for the chosen fix.
Soul trapping black souls (NPCs) into the white version of Azura’s Star has been mentioned as being impossible by in game dialogue, printed in game information sources, and all known lore from the TES series as well as published game guides. Regular black soul gems should also only accept the souls of NPCs (black souls) and is mentioned in all of the same lore material as being this way. This major discrepancy should now be fixed.
True about Azura’s Star, but wrong on the black soul gems. I’m curious about the “lore material” claimed (without citation) by the USkP team on regular black soul gems, because all the material I find supports black soul gems may hold white souls.
Skyrim lore implies, and prior games prove, black soul gems function like white soul gems (Souls, Black and White), and that “only the rare black soul gem can hold the soul of a higher creature, such as a man or an elf.” (Also see A Tragedy in Black.) Sometimes black soul gems are referred to as “larger soul gems” (Guild Memo on Soul Trapping - TES IV). The strongest evidence showing USkP’s statement on black soul gems as false is the previous chapter: TES IV: Oblivion allows black soul gems to hold lesser (including grand) white souls (elderscrolls.wikia) just as normal TES V.
Changing black soul gems to only hold larger, black souls causes a discrepancy with previous chapters and lore. TES may change lore between chapters, but Skyrim lacks evidence one way or the other.
Consider soul gems may accept souls of equal to or lesser than its size, and that a black soul gem can be made from a grand soul gem (Anchorite’s Note - TES IV). All “white souls” are of creatures lesser than man or mer. TES lore implies this remains true for the larger black soul gems, and I can’t find a book, note, or dialogue that specifically states black soul gems (not including The Black Star) can’t hold lesser, or white, souls. Previous games allowed it, as does Skyrim.
The confusion comes in when Nelecar (elderscrolls.wikia) states that repairing The Black Star, cut off from Azura, may then only hold “black souls” mentioning this limitation as a precaution in case the hero wants to instead take the star back to Azura’s Shrine for repair. It seems likely The Black Star should have been limited (the bug), but regular black soul gems must work as normal accepting lesser souls.
This change also makes the game a bit easier since the player no longer needs to keep track of running out of regular soul gems and accidentally filling a black soul gem with a lesser soul. I prefer the original logic and keeping with lore: black soul gems work like white soul gems for larger, black souls as if a necromancer had taken a grand soul gem and altered it as done in TES IV.
On AFK Mods, a player looking into reverting this error reported the change was done by script making it a bit trickier to restore original without adequate scripting knowledge.
3. “Archery is in the wrong guardian stone perk.” (bug #2335)
By Arthmoor’s definition there’s nothing to fix here. As noted on elderscrolls.wikia, the Thief Stone includes archery even though archery is a combat skill. The change log cites difference with Oghma Infinium and Bards College rewards as evidence. However, the Priests Masks ability-pairing match the original Thief Stone. These discrepancies may have been a design decision, such as for balance or keeping to the class-less philosophy, so we could give Bethesda Game Studios benefit of the doubt unless we can find factual evidence of intent.
4. Necromage affects on vampire player removed (v1.2.3)
This change log doesn’t mention what’s being fixed and introduces an error. Some players have posted speculation that the change addresses powerful stacking of abilities. So, let’s assume combining these abilities with Necromage leads to bad gameplay and this fixes that. The problem is now we have a verifiable error.
Necromage defined in game: “All spells more effective against undead.”
The Necromage perk increases spell strength and duration on undead (details on elderscrolls.wikia), great for fighting vampires and powerful draugr. Handy for healing undead minions, too (Dawnguard DLC). If the player character (PC) is a vampire then the perk also increases affects including weaknesses. It’s what a player would expect with their vampire character. Interpretation of “against undead” may vary, but “all spells” certainly includes those affecting the PC. This change contradicts game material thus introduces an error.
This USkP change fails to cite reason, increases confusion by introducing contradiction, and in-game evidence supports the original affect. The stacking powers issue can be solved another way, or by players choosing combat and magic overhauls.
5. Added content: new room and new beds
Arthmoor admits this change goes beyond the scope of the patch (bug #12618 report page) and that it may introduce conflicts. The room in the Flagon is added with beds and the five residents given sleep packages purely for immersion value, so USkP is more than a patch - it’s game-changing mod. Mod authors need to be aware of added content to design for both existence conditions, and players not interested in new content have a tougher time removing a room and beds in various locations. Adding and changing content is better left to mods dedicated to these types of changes. See “Immersive Citizens” for extensive character package changes including sleeping adjustments (and new beds).
Other beds have been added to Sea Squall (bug #12371), new bed for guard (#13063), one new bed in Dawnstar Sanctuary (#19439).
6. Grimsever changed to two-handed (v1.2.3)
Mjoll prefers two-hand style and her comments imply Grimsever is intimidating. Nothing explicitly states Grimsever is two-handed, and it is in fact a perfectly working one-handed sword. The change log provides no evidence and only reason given is that her favorite sword doesn’t match her style which is true for other followers, too (see #7 below).
Perhaps Mjoll has grown more proficient with two-handed since losing Grimsever. She’s changed her life since then. A one-handed Grimsever makes Mjoll’s history more interesting; a better story. Sure, it could be a mistake, but what is the factual proof? Give your follower what she needs.
This change should be player preference which older mods had covered.
7. Erik the Slayer class changed to match equipment (bugs #14739, #19324)
Several other characters were changed as well, but I call out Erik the Slayer because it makes more sense that he starts out with mismatched equipment. It fits his story! Mistake or not, Erik is a more interesting character by starting out with gear he isn’t proficient with. Erik may become a slayer as he builds his skill set, but he starts out as a hoe-pusher.
Part of the game is deciding what gear to give a follower easily tested by handing the follower a weapon and discover if she swaps. This is a strong argument in favor of intended design with no evidence to the contrary. No bug here, just personal preference.
Change Erik back by overriding the form to original. If the change bothers you, that is.
8. other minor changes
There are many changes without citation or presenting opinion as fact for the reason. Here I list a few examples of minor adjustments.
During Civil War in “A False Front” documents need to be obtained from a courier in which killing the courier counts as murder. USKP (bug #14639) removes the courer from guard faction making it easier for players to obtain documents without murder. Only evidence of bug cited is personal opinion. Murder through dialogue makes sense since the courier is only trying to protect the documents, and the player verbally threatens courier by demanding documents. It adds extra morality choice for the player (simple to obtain without murder), and morality decisions play a part in the game. Without evidence of intent this is not a bug.
- “Bucket moved on to shelf to prevent Wilhelm from stepping in it and dragging it around the inn.” (Bug #15101)
- “Dragons and Draugr will no longer be considered enemies.”
- “Texture set CityBannerMarkarth had a generic placeholder texture with the word ‘Markarth’ on it. This has been replaced with a proper banner texture for the city.”
- Spell absorption no longer absorbs caster’s spells. (bug #445)
- thousands of clutter changes, debris additions, and landscape adjustments for aesthetics better addressed by beautification mods.
The bucket fix is arbitrary and reported problem difficult to reproduce. Dragons occasionally attacking draugr seems logical and interesting to me. Editing the Markarth banner is unnecessary since the placeholder doesn’t show in the original game. This fix actually causes an error by placing the banners backward. In many ways, I would expect spell absorption to absorb the caster’s spells, but conjured creatures don’t target the caster.
There are many changes based on opinion. Mistakes happen, and fixing bugs can get tricky. Besides the backward banners, other changes either fail to fix or create new bugs. Browsing the USkP change log illustrates this by the number of fixes dedicated to USkP issues.
Finding a disagreeable feature doesn’t make it a bug or mistake. Many changes are based on opinion, so decide which changes you agree with. Review the change log and bug reports to find changes you want restore to original or make different. That’s why we mod - alter the game how we like. A good patch focuses only on fixing verifiable bugs and mistakes, but USkP goes beyond that to include a collection of game changes. Nothing wrong with that, but let’s not call them all fixes. Choose your mods and patch override them as you desire.
I say, no, to USkP. After trying out USkP for several months, I decided to create my own game-patch instead. I’m primarily interested in fixing bugs (techopedia definition) and verifiable errors. The USkP gameplay changes and added content reduce my enjoyment of the game, some of it distracting me due to my familiarity with original content and gameplay. USkP includes over a thousand changes I don’t want. It’s easier to create my own patch and select mods that better address feature changes I’m interested in.
updated March 2018
I enjoyed reading comments left here on this topic, and you may find them on Disqus - Say no, or carefully consider, USkP. Based on feedback and in effort to be more concise, I edited the page. Thanks.
some notable bugs to avoid - fixed by USkP
- Don’t pick up a named musical instrument until after receiving the quest
- Redbelly Mine and Soljund’s Sinkhole re-spawn after quest completion killing miners if player enters mine
- Shroud Hearth Barrow: a wall may disappear - step through door, wall returns.
- Ironbind Barrow - followers can’t climb spiral stairs in final room.
- Don’t put Ebony Blade on a weapon rack. It may fall and disappear.
- Hearthfire wall storage problematic. Use a chest.
Alternatives to USkP
Here are some fixes I’m using. Also see “Mods Made Obsolete by Unofficial Patches”.
- Dawnguard Wolf Howl Fix (file not compatible with SE, but you can convert it)
- Vampire Eyes Fix - Instead of this, I incorporated the female eye change with DIY skin-tone fix below.
- Vampire Skin Tone Fix for Breton, Imperial, Redguard. See DIY instructions and consider Update.esm as master.
- Soul Trap projectile animation - I created patch using TES5Edit changing spell and effect.
- Shrine of Azura LOD Fix (not needed in SE).
- Farkas wears wolf armor - I created patch using Creation Kit.
- Cleared mines re-spawn after quest completion - easy with script edit and add marker using CK.
- Modern Brawl Bugs Fix
- Mage Robes Comment Fix
- Thalmor Embassy Disguise Fix
- “Markarth City Banner Retexture”