Sometimes it only takes a small thing to make a big difference. Here I share some lightweight, seemingly simple mods that give a big impact on gameplay for TES V: Skyrim.
Pretty soul gems
“MultiLayer Parallax Soul Gems” by MadCat221 makes soul gems prettier, and by differentiating filled gems from empty, improves gameplay. Filled gems appear to have an animated wriggling light effect inside the gem, a technique used for atronochs making an animated texture appear within a semi-transparent surface. Filled gems appear to have a soul inside, and empty gems appear empty. This simple thing helps a player instantly recognize the difference upon spotting a soul gem sitting in a room without having to pick the gem up and open the inventory screen. Handy if searching for a filled gem.
Lightweight, pretty, and cuts the cost of accessing a game interface resulting in improved immersion. Beautiful.
Knock, knock - “Is someone there?”
Knocking on a closed, locked door seems so natural that it once was a part of TES II: Daggerfall, yet oddly missing in later chapters. The Dragonborn, attempting to return a lost family heirloom, feels foolish standing outside and waiting, or picking the lock and accepting the fine. (Of course, the hero that insists on disturbing homeowners at late hours might deserve to wait outside.) Many have requested a door-knock feature, and a few have given a go at solving the problem. It turns out implementing a smooth knock-knock experience is non-trivial.
As Chesko explains on his “Simply Knock” mod description page, the core problem in Skyrim for the modder is that it isn’t easily determined where a door actually leads to. Using scripts, “it was impossible to discover important things like ‘Where does this door go?’, ‘Who owns this door?’ and ‘Are the owners home?’, before you actually go through the door.” To solve this complex problem, Chesko employed a workaround using “Skyrim Script Extender” (SKSE) function, GetLinkedDoor(). Thus, the mod requires SKSE.
Chesko’s implementation finds the home, determines if occupied by which characters (and if enabled), and fetches the matching voice (most of the time) for “Is someone there?” to greet the player when knocking. The interface is simple: if door is locked a dialogue presents options to knock, leave, or pick the lock. If sneaking, then it skips straight to the lock-pick interface as normal.
I found the default settings too welcoming. Using the MCM, I disabled option for friends always open and reduced base speechcraft chance to 33%. Sometimes even friends need their quiet time, especially if the hero always comes knocking at 3 AM.
Being able to do something that comes so natural, even if only on occasion, has a huge impact on gameplay. Well done.
Carry a lantern
Sure, torches are more convenient when investigating crypts or old mines, but a trusty lantern is nice when traveling the tundra at night. “Wearable Lanterns” by Chesko allows your character or follower to adventure with a lantern. Carry in hand or fasten to belt. Craft a lantern and buy lantern oil from a vendor. If using “Campfire”, lanterns may be crafted using survival skills, create item.
This mod comes in very handy if using darker nights and dungeons modification. Let’s get going!