(I said CTDs you pervert, for STDs you need to go elsewhere - maybe PSQ?)
Disclaimer 1 (please read this prior to telling me what a moron I am)
Like any blog this one is the result of my experience - both personal (messing up my own game) and vicarious (messing up other people's games by giving advice on the threads). I am well aware that intelligent, well-informed and well-meaning people may disagree with many of the things that I have posted. They are entitled to their opinion. This blog is meant for open-minded people who are looking for an approach (maybe any approach) to their current problem.
Disclaimer 2 (I know that this is derivative)
I am well aware that things like this have been done before. Like writing a novel I would hope that since I would not be the first person to ever write a novel my readers would approach my work with an open mind. If this is not for you - if this does not meet your needs - I hope you will find that elsewhere.
This blog was inspired by and is meant to complement the work of Donttouchmethere in his blog. His work is to help people to start (or more specifically restart) their Skyrim LE game. Mine is meant to help them once they have gotten past that point. I highly recommend his blog which can be found here:
Disclaimer 3 (when are you going to finish?)
Who knows? Maybe this is all I can stand and I'm done now. Or maybe I'll be like T.S. Eliot:
When asked about completing one of his works T.S. Eliot said that he never actually completed a poem, but rather, there just came a time at which he had to let it go.
In any case I expect that I will add to this as I come to see that there are questions that recur on threads.
Section 1 - CTDs
The first question when you are getting CTDs is when are you getting CTDs? This can be split in three parts: before the main screen (or a split second thereafter), after the main screen but before the game loads (or a split second thereafter) or during the game.
This is the main screen to which I allude:
1) The crash is occurring before the main screen.
This is almost always a result of a missing master. If you have this problem you should run LOOT (Load Order Optimisation Tool) found here:
Your mod manager can also tell you if you have a missing master but it is simpler to give one tried and tested tool to work with rather than explaining several different ones. If you have already read Donttouchmethere's blog you already have this tool. LOOT is very intuitive and a great deal of explanation should not be needed. Here is an example of what LOOT looks like in use:
Please note what is wrong with this (I assure you I did this intentionally, believe it or not). Just to the right of center at the top, you will note that LOOT says that I have 1 warning and 5 errors. The warnings can generally be disregarded but this one is highlighted in yellow - I have not sorted my load order. Before starting any Skyrim game in which you have changed your load order (added or deleted mods) you should run LOOT. Make it a habit. In the long haul you will not regret it.
Back to the matter at hand, if I were to scroll down this page of LOOT it would show me in red those files which are causing an error. In this case it is because I have a master that I have turned off. Were I to try to load this order right now my game would crash to desktop (CTD). I need to replace the missing master (LOOT will indicate which files need masters and what they are). In this case I happen to know that it is paradise_halls.esm (note that there is no number next to it in the left hand column of the screen) - this means that I loaded it but it has been ticked "off". When I go back and tick paradise halls back on and run LOOT the errors disappear and my game will load.
Before leaving LOOT I want to point out one other thing. On the top right hand, in the blue bar, there is an icon that looks like three vertical buttons or dots. If you click on that you will get options including being able to copy your load order. In my opinion, LOOT is the best source for sharing your load order for two reasons. First, LOOT gives the numbers to each of your mods. So, if you were writing to me you could say why is Devious Devices - Assets.esm (0a) so much higher in your load order than the other DD mods? Thus, it allows clearer communication. Second, LOOT lists your load order in the actual order in which it is loaded. So, it is easier to see if you have one or more mods that may be overwriting an earlier mod. In some cases knowing that and changing the load order is all that's necessary to fix a problem.
2) The crash is happening after the main screen but before the game loads.
The most common cause of this problem is too many animations for the crummy Bugthesda engine to handle with your modded Skyrim game.
The material between the double lines is outdated but I am leaving it for reference purposes.
The material between these lines is outdated but I am leaving it for reference purposes.
The limits of what constitutes too many animations vary from one set of mods to another. Fore (of FNIS fame) will attest that he can run 20k animations but admits that those animations make up virtually all his mods. Most people can safely run10k-12k animations. Some can run more, some less. When you run FNIS you should get something that looks like this:
This indicates that I have 6850 + 3212 = 10062 animations running at the current time (well below the limit and, I assure you, little enough to avoid issues with CTD).
Updated information on animation limits
As of today (1/11/2019) there is no information on calculating how many animations you can safely load. This information is from Fore (of FNIS fame) originally and verified by GenioMaestro.
The limitations on animations appear to be related to character animations and alternate animations. The good news is that if you can get FNIS to load your creature animations they should not cause a CTD. The bad news is that calculating the limit is just a little harder. I will still use the FNIS output above (in the outdated section) for my example.
The newer information indicates that you need to calculate the total number of character animations and THREE TIMES the number of alternate animations. That total should not exceed 14k. So, using the information above my "effective" animations are: 2949 (983 * 3) + 6850 = 9799 animations. This is well below the 14000 animations limit. Even this limit can be exceeded if you use poser mods which seem to have less effect.
Sadly, the einformation between these double lines is also outdated.
The most up-to-date information about animation CTDs (from Fore as of 8/15/2019) can be found here:
If you have more animations than you can load you effectively have 3 choices. First, and simplest is to remove animation packs.That would reduce the total number and, hopefully, allow the game to load (if you couldn't previously). Second choice is to use older versions of mods that you am currently running. Each iteration of a mod that contains animations (whether Devious Devices (DD) or Zaz Animation Pack (ZAP) contains more "stuff" including more animations. So, if you have too many animations with ZAP 8+ you could try loading with ZAP7 (similarly with DD). This only works if 1) you can find an older version of the mod and 2) the mods that you run that use the mod you are changing will actually run with the older version. Third, you can go to one of the Support Threads for mods that "do" animations. For my purposes I highly recommend going to the support thread for SexLab Animation Loader (SLAL) by Orxx. This issue is discussed at length on that site. There are many suggestions listed on how you can go about picking and choosing animations out of packs so as to reduce the total animations while leaving you the ones you feel that you absolutely have to have,
FNIS is very important to modded Skyrim. Be certain that you run it every time you change your load order. You might be surprised to discover that a mod that you loaded has animations in it even though "Animations" is NOT in its title.
Before I leave this topic I want to say two more things about FNIS. First, and most importantly. neither warnings nor errors should be ignored. Unlike LOOT (where warnings can usually be safely ignored) it is critically important that you resolve all warnings and errors that you receive from FNIS before starting your modded Skyrim game. Second, what Fore's excellent tool tells you is how many animations that FNIS can handle, not how many Bugthesda's engine can handle. It is the rule, rather than the exception, that people who have CTDs from too many animations get no warning from FNIS. That is because FNIS CAN handle that number of animations, it is the game's engine that can't! (This second point should be made void by the release of FNIS 7.5 XXL Beta-6. It should tell you if you are trying to load too many animations).
For more information on animation limits look at this article:
If you are having a crash due to too many animations then you need this:
3) I get my crashes at some other place and time
There are too many possibilities for this category to list all of them so I am going to stick with some recurrent themes.
First, do you have the tools?
Many tools have been developed to help stabilize and improve the modded Skyrim experience. In my opinion, among the most important are:
1) Crash fixes. Found here and fairly self-explanatory (as always, do read the directions):
2) ENBoost. This one is more difficult and I hope to do a walkthrough at some point in the future. It is VERY important if you have less than 4GB of VRAM. If you have 8GB or more you probably don't need it. At 4GB it's your call (I have 4GB and I use it). Anyway, you will need to look in more than one place in order to complete this (although it will take you through it). Start here:
As if ENBoost is not difficult enough MicroSoft has chosen to throw some additional glitches in for users of Windows 10. If you have problems getting ENBoost to work and you run Windows 10 take a look at this (I had to):
3) SKSE. ini. The SKSE program does not come with this. As a result you do not get all the benefits of SKSE. While you can make your own version this one is already complete and optimized.
4) SKSE plugin preloader. Helps organize SKSE so as to improve management.
5) Bethini. Skyrim's .ini files give it directions on how to handle your game. Problems with .ini files can cause all sorts of problems. While it is entirely possible to deal with these files by yourself Bethini gives you a tool with which to handle them safely. It is also much more intuitive than editing the files by yourself. It can be found here:
Then, have you done things correctly?
There are very many ways to do Skyrim correctly. Sadly there are even more ways in which to foul it up. Let me start with my favorite analogy for this. Modding Skyrim correctly (that is ending up with a stable game) is like good cooking. First, it requires the right ingredients (this is all the things that have been mentioned up to this point). Second, it takes patience (when I first came to LL I thought that the people giving me advice were brilliant and that their modded games just flowed from their genius. Now I know that they worked their asses off to make their game work, just like I did). Good food and a stable Skyrim game can not be rushed. Third, it can be seasoned to taste, There is no such thing as THE right set of mods or load order. Finally, no matter how much you may love two things individually sometimes they do not go together (some mods will just NOT place nice with other mods, I'm sorry at times you will just have to choose).
Another common place to get CTDs is on loading a saved game. While many things, like bloat, can cause this issue it often can be resolved by adding another simple tool found here:
Bloat is more complex and beyond what I intend to do in this blog at this time.
A special case I'd like to mention is the corrupted mesh. If you find yourself unable to enter a particular cell (this usually occurs when you try to go through a doorway) you may have a corrupted mesh. If you attempt to use the console coc command and crash that way as well it makes the likelihood higher, frankly, close to 100%. So, now you know the cause you still have to go through your mods and see which one(s) is corrupting the mesh. While mods that say that they affect that cell should come high on your list of suspects my experience has been that the culprit is often something that doesn't come to mind as affecting that space.
Using the console/coc command:
First, using the console:
Skyrim's console can be accessed (on an English language keyboard) by hitting the "~" tilde key (normally on the top left of your keyboard). Once pressed a space in which you can type appears in the bottom of your screen. While I am focused on the coc command here it can also be used to give many other commands in the game. To find out how to access it with a non-English keyboard go here:
Second, using the coc command:
In order to use the coc (center on cell) command open the console. Then type coc, the destination and hit enter. For example, if you want to use it to go to Breezehome type:
coc WhiterunBreezehome (and hit enter)
More information on coc and other console commands can be found here:
The same site can give you information about location names or you can use the console's help feature to find the "official" name for a location.
VirginMarie (the author of the excellent mod Shout Like a Virgin) lists this as her "golden rule" on her modpage:
Golden Rule: To avoid corrupting your save... Never change sort order or remove mods mid-play-through. You can only safely upgrade a mod, or add mods to the end of your load order.
Rule is in general, not just for this mod. Breaking this rule is the #1 cause for a wide range of problems. Save cleaning tools help but won't remove all corruption. The so called "clean save" procedure breaks this rule... instead, start a new game when unable to follow the rule (new game means really a new game, not some early save).
While I freely admit that there are exceptions to this rule and I have violated it without a problem a time or two, it is best to abide by this as outstanding advice. If you have a save that has fouled up for whatever reason, be prepared to start over again. Fix whatever your issue was, run LOOT and FNIS and START A NEW GAME!
As a general principle, avoid mods that have had no updates in the last 3 years. Not all older mods are game breakers but many are. If you feel that you just have to try an older mod go to it's support thread and read the last 2-3 pages. If the posts are old or someone has clearly abandoned the mod, just don't load it.
Next, let's look at papyrus logs!