Introduction

Welcome to The Phoenix Flavour, a Vanilla-plus modding guide for Skyrim SE.

Overview

The Phoenix Flavour for Skyrim SE is a vanilla-plus modding guide, featuring over 600 mods carefully selected and patched for a coherent and stable experience. Originally released in 2017, it has gone through many iterations and continues to be updated and expanded frequently.

The concept of “Vanilla plus” simply refers to a mod or mod setup that improves the existing game without attempting to turn it into something entirely different. It is a matter of preference and there are guides with different approaches out there for those who are tired of Skyrim’s core gameplay loop.

Overall, the guide is highly accessible for modding beginners with its countless additional notes, explanations, and screenshots. The less experience you have with modding Skyrim, the more important it is that you read everything carefully. The guide was written with the assumption that most readers have little to no previous knowledge about modding and supplies the basics before going more in-depth.

Please note that installing the TPF setup by following the manual guide here on the website is time-consuming. Completion will likely take several days, depending on your internet connection and modding experience. If you are not interested in learning how to mod, it is highly recommended to install TPF with Wabbajack which requires only a fraction of the time and effort.

Testimonials

Your modlist represents what Skyrim should have been; much better visuals and much more satisfying gameplay and extras. Thank you for the tireless work and support you give on the discord. I thought I’d exhausted any enthusiasm for this game but you’ve injected new life into it.

While I often use forks that supplement with additional content (currently Elysium), there is no question to my mind that TPF is the best V+ base: Solid, beautiful, performant.

Thank you TPF team, I have been playing current Skyrim run about one year now, using the previous version of TPF. The guide itself taught a lot from modding and I managed to add few mods on the top of the guide. I came from Xbox and this is my first PC modded PT. Gonna definitely use TPF also for the next run!

Thanks y’all so much for putting TPF and this community together! I haven’t really been able to play modded Skyrim for a long time, with my job+modlist troubleshooting taking up so much time. TPF(+Wabbajack) made it work, and is stable and documented enough that I’ve been able to add a couple more mods on top with some degree of confidence it won’t ctd and burn.

Sheo says thanks

Modularity & Customisation

Up until the release of version 3.0, TPF was fully modular and split up into four modules (Core, Visuals, Gameplay, Content). From release 3.0 onwards, all parts were merged together into one. The Customisation section with alternative and additional mods was removed in version 3.4 and finally with 3.6, all mods were made mandatory (where some were previously optional). This has all but eliminated the original pitch (full customisability) in favour of a more traditional approach featured in guides such as Lexy’s LOTD.

The simple truth of the matter is that TPF is written and patched by two people with a limited amount of free time. Customisability has become completely unsustainable as the guide continued to grow and had to be dropped as a feature so that we can focus on the heart of the setup and its improvement.

Those experienced with modding and SSEEdit will find it very easy to customise the guide to their liking (though you should be aware that you are no longer eligible for support once you deviate from the instructions). Otherwise, there are many alternatives in the form of other guides and Wabbajack mod lists, including forks of TPF with mods adding more content.

With the release of the TPF-X addon, customisability has made a limited return. The addon contains various additions from which the user can pick and choose. Other addons further expand the amount of supported mods.

TPF as a teacher

TPF has two purposes: 1) to create and document what I consider my personal ideal version of Skyrim, and 2) to teach its users as much about modding as possible without requiring any prior modding experience. Throughout the guide we will make use of a large amount of tools and procedures, including proper use of Mod Organizer 2 and how to run various patchers such as DynDOLOD.

The manual guide exists first and foremost to show users step-by-step how TPF was built. Naturally, there are some steps missing, most notably the creation of the Conflict Resolution Patch which would require a near TPF-length guide in itself to cover its creation. However, everything else is explained in detail.

The nature of the guide requires a certain motivation on the part of the user to read and learn. Thankfully, there is a shortcut (the autoinstaller Wabbajack) that is detailed a little further down.

Features

Regardless of whether you build the setup manually or use the Wabbajack installer, here is what the resulting mod setup will feature:

  • A Better Skyrim: The guide includes hundreds of mods across several dozen categories, all carefully selected to fit my vision of a lore-friendly, improved but not radically changed Skyrim. The Phoenix Flavour strives to provide a solid upgrade of the vanilla experience with modern visuals and rebalanced gameplay.
  • Custom Files and Patches: Both the final patch as well as some patches and plugin replacers installed during the mod setup have been made specifically for the guide by Umgak and myself. They ensure compatibility as well as consistency between all included mods.
  • Performance: The Phoenix Flavour was created for gameplay rather than screen-archery and will for most people deliver solid framerates on a 1080p monitor resolution. For higher resolutions, better hardware is required. Through conservative INI tweaks, reasonable texture resolutions, and a performance-friendly ENB preset, TPF is careful to improve the visuals without making the game unplayable.
  • Stability: Skyrim SE itself is already very stable compared to Classic Skyrim. You may still experience the occasional freeze or crash, but they will be very rare (perhaps once every 20 to 30 hours). These happen in Vanilla and they will happen in TPF.

Included Mods

  • Visuals: Cathedral Weathers, Luminosity and Relighting Skyrim, Cathedral Landscapes.
  • Textures: Noble Skyrim overwritten by dozens of smaller mods (including the RUSTIC series and aMidianBorn).
  • Distant Level of Detail (LOD): DynDOLOD is included and mandatory; 3D tree LOD is optional.
  • ENBSeries: Using Serio’s ENB which is performance-friendly and does not break nighteye.
  • Gameplay: Featuring the full suite of SimonMagus’ suite of lightweight overhauls.
  • Loot and Rarity: Based on the fantastic Open World Loot overhaul.
  • New Companions: None included. TPF-X adds support for Inigo and Lucien.
  • DLC-Sized Mods: None included.
  • Body Replacer: None included. But there are high poly hands and feet.
  • Needs and Survival Mods: None included. CC Survival support available in an addon.

Included in TPF-X (an official addon for the main guide) is among other things a collection of mods new music tracks which I added to a convenient YouTube playlist for you to listen to while you work through the guide.

Additional Mods

Please wait until after you completed the guide and tested your setup before adding more mods, otherwise you will no longer be eligible to receive support on our Discord server should you need it. We do not - and cannot - offer support for setups that are not 100% TPF. This includes Creation Club content.

If you want to expand the base TPF setup without losing support, there are:

TPF Addons

Still want more mods after completing TPF? We got you covered. For users of the manual guide, there is the option to install Addons on top of the base TPF installation.

TPF-X is the “official” addon by yours truly. It’s fully modular and features new music, new gear, support for Creation Club player homes, Rudy ENB, new followers (Lucien and Inigo), and more.

Other addons include Slidikins’ Strenuous Skyrim which implements survival mechanics and makes loot significantly rarer. Additionally, there are patches for other Creation Club content such as CC Survival Mode as well as an integration patch for Legacy of the Dragonborn.

Find out about TPF Addons here. Obviously they require an existing installation of base TPF.

Our Tools

The Phoenix Flavour is built using the most advanced, feature-rich mod manager out there: Mod Organizer 2, a tool superior to both the outdated Nexus Mod Manager as well as the newer Vortex.

In addition to MO2, we will routinely utilise the official Creation Kit as well as SSEEdit and Cathedral Assets Optimizer in the manual guide. You will be provided with detailed instructions for all these tools (and others) in order to teach you how and when to use them correctly.

This guide neither supports nor recommends LOOT. You should not use it at any point on a TPF installation.

Wabbajack

Those unable or unwilling to invest large amounts of time into modding Skyrim SE should look into the Wabbajack version of The Phoenix Flavour instead of following the manual guide.

Wabbajack is an auto-installer capable of “cloning” a full mod setup including all tweaks and changes to someone else’s system. It requires virtually no modding experiences and very little effort, although to automate the download process a Nexus Premium account is required.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Wabbajack
The actual mod installation can be done within hours with zero effort.
All additional instructions will take much less time to follow and complete than a full run of the manual guide would.
Since most of the process is automated, it’s unlikely that you will make mistakes that take time to track and fix.
Nexus Premium is required to automate the file downloads, otherwise you have to download each mod individually.
You will learn nothing about modding or utilising the required tools.

TPF Wabbajack Installer

While there is a lot that Wabbajack can automate, there are still some steps to complete in order to successfully set up Skyrim and TPF. These are covered in the Wabbajack section. By using Wabbajack, you essentially skip the Initial Setup, Mod Installation, and Finalisation steps of the manual guide. However, you still need to configure your mods according to the Mod Configuration page just like users of the manual guide do.

TPF WJ Flowchart

Alternatives

The Phoenix Flavour is far from the only modding guide for Skyrim SE. However, the term “modding guide” itself is used quite liberately in the community with many small mod lists being referred to as such. These are often written by inexperienced people and lack crucial features such as custom patches or certain essential mods.

Unequivocally recommended by us is Lexy’s Legacy of the Dragonborn. For more information on this and other guides, please check out my brief overview over existing modding guides which lists recommended guides as well as some that should be avoided at all costs.

TPF Forks

What is a fork in software terms?

If the vanilla-plus approach of TPF is to your liking but you find yourself missing additional content, check out Elysium - A TPF Fork by TitansBane (author of Tools of Kagrenac and Reliquary of Myth) which expands the base setup with EnaiSiaion’s suite of gameplay overhauls (replacing the default TPF SimonRim setup) and optional Creation Club support as well as Legacy of the Dragonborn, 3DNPC, Vigilant, and more quest mods.

The specs below are recommended for those looking to install all visual mods with high settings as well as 3D tree LOD through DynDOLOD and a full ENB preset. There are several options within the guide that allow you to lower its performance impact so that the modded game remains playable even on weaker machines.

Modded Skyrim is highly GPU-dependent. A fast card with plenty of VRAM will considerably improve performance. Installing the game on an SSD will improve load times dramatically and prevent stutter.

  • CPU: Processor with high single core performance (3.2GHz or more).
  • RAM: 8-16 GB of DDR3 or DDR4 memory, running at 2400MHz or faster.
  • GPU: A modern card with at least 4GB of VRAM (ideally 6-8GB or more).
  • Hard Drive: At least 80GB of free space, ideally on an SSD.
  • Monitor: With a standard (16:9) or widescreen (21:9) aspect ratio.

NVIDIA GPUs are highly recommended. Performance with AMD cards is lower on average, especially when running ENB.

Free space: The full TPF installation is about 60GB large, excluding downloads (they can easily be saved to a different hard drive). Skyrim SE is another 13GB. Obviously you need to remember that your hard drive needs to have some free space left, around 20% for optimal performance.

Widescreen support: UI patches and replacers can be found in the Resources section to be installed after the main guide.

Phoenix’s Build

I have a fairly high-end PC these days:

  • CPU: Intel i7 10700k w/ NZXT Kraken X73
  • RAM: Corsair Vengeance 16GB DDR4-3200 Memory
  • GPU: Gigabyte RTX 3080 Gaming OC (10GB VRAM)
  • SSD: Samsung 850 Evo Series 256GB SSD (OS)
  • SSD: Samsung 860 Evo Series 1TB SSD (Games)
  • Monitor: LG 27GL850-B UltraGear 1440p @144Hz (primary)
  • Monitor: Acer S242HL 1080p @60Hz (secondary)

That being said, a high-end system is NOT required to run TPF! In fact, one of the guide’s priorities has always been performance-friendliness, and this has never changed. You can run TPF comfortably with specs far below my own.

Monitor Resolution

Never underestimate the impact that high monitor resolutions have on performance and how closely they tie performance to your GPU. With my previous card, a 1070 FE, I could play @1080p with a stable 60-100 FPS and all the bells & whistles (such as ENB, DynDOLOD on high with 3D trees, etc). Setting my monitor’s resolution to its native 1440p, I would lose about 20-30 FPS on average, making the game feel choppy in many places. The 3080 eliminated any performance issues on 1440p, essentially giving me the performance at 1440p that my 1070 managed at 1080p.

In summary: Hardware requirements for 2K and especially 4K are considerable and the recommended resolution for gameplay is 1080p. Note that compared to the majority of Skyrim SE guides and Wabbajack lists, TPF is heavily geared towards performance over visuals.

The guide includes instructions to change the game’s resolution.

Discord

On our dedicated Discord server for The Phoenix Flavour, we are providing support for the main guide as well as the Wabbajack version of TPF. We are also talking guide changes, Skyrim modding, and gaming in general.

Join us on Discord.

Before You Begin

Please check the changelog and the #updates channel on our Discord server for the latest news. If an update is imminent, I will be posting about this on the server and it will usually be recommended to wait for it to drop before starting to go through the guide. It is important to keep track of updates when installing TPF as instructions may literally change overnight.


MANUAL GUIDE USERS: Get started with the Prerequisites page.

WABBAJACK USERS: Get started with the Setup page.


Last modified July 6, 2021