Every player’s mod list is different. Some will focus on visuals, making the game as graphically impressive and pretty as possible. Others care primarily about additional content. I tend towards the later, with a preference for additional survival or realism mods. I recommend starting with the “Core Mods” section in the Oblivion Comprehensive Modding Guide by Dispensation which will cover some essential performance and enhancement mods.
Below are some specific mods I would like to highlight, and which I enjoy.
Basic Primary Needs & Personal Hygiene
These two mods cover most of the survival aspects of my mod pack. “Basic Primary Needs” adds hunger, thirst, and fatigue, while “Basic Personal Hygiene” adds cleanliness. Managing these will feel tedious to some, but I really like having to eat and drink, and visiting a bath house after a long time adventuring.
Each mod can make use of additional HUD Status Bars, which makes tracking the new needs much easier.
This mod adds a portable player home, and is supremely comfy. Because I avoid fast-travel, I wanted some sort of camping mod. I originally used Maskar’s Camping Mod before learning of this mod. By comparison, the tent in Traveler’s Tent feels almost like cheating, but sometimes it’s important to treat yourself.
These I would consider my graphical improvements. I’m generally not too concerned with making the game look good, but I love making the game feel more realistic. These mods make Cyrodiil feel more alive.
This is a massive collection of city overhaul and enhancement mods. I was awe-struck when I walked around the Imperial City for the first time with this mod enabled. Bravil felt like a dangerous, crowded harbor town. Leyawin looks like an actual place people live. Though the improvements do come with FPS hits. Doubly-so if enabling the Open Cities option, which moves cities into the overworld space, instead of their own individual instances. It’s a balancing act: the immersion of walking directly into a city sometimes isn’t worth crashing to desktop when adventuring around cities.
“Common Oblivion” enriches the world of Oblivion by adding lots of little things, and helping different mods “talk” to each other. I like to think of it as filling in a lot of the details that feel missing from vanilla Oblivion.
This mod and the corresponding patch make the economy of the world more dynamic. What I really like are the merchant quests that are added. Several merchants in each town will ask you to find an item in one of the nearby dungeons. It adds flavor to the game in just the right way.
Lubron’s Patch for Enhanced Economy fixes some bugs and cleans up the code a bit.
Lights of Oblivion - Road Lanterns
A very simple mod that I feel really enhances my travel around Cyrodiil. I avoid fast-traveling whenever possible, and walking lit roads at night feels comfy. I’m partial to the Imperial model.
Arguably the only graphical enhancement mod, Natural Environments provides options for modifying the weather, water, and vegetation around Cyrodiil. The weather and vegetation enhancements especially stand out. Overall the mods don’t cause me much performance impact, if any.
Cyrodiil Travel Services
I really enjoyed that in Skyrim there was a dude with a wagon you could pay to travel to the various cities. This mod adds similar functionality, and then some. Useful when playing the game without fast-travel enabled.
Arguably, these are the heavy hitters. These mods will alter the mechanics of the game, often making things more challenging but also more rewarding.
Maskar’s Oblivion Overhaul
Maskar’s Overhaul is a massive endeavor. It “[improves] many aspects of the game, while maintaining the overall feel of the game and ensuring compatibility with most other mods.” I think it does so with great success! However, be forewarned, that this overhaul makes the game more challenging.
There is too much to cover about Maskar’s in this post, but I highly recommend it. It comes with a PDF instruction manual, which is 61 pages long.
Vanilla Combat Enhanced
As the name implies, this overhaul adjusts but does not change the vanilla combat experience. Whereas other mods add new moves or fatigue systems, this mod updates the vanilla combat experience to be more challenging and fair. It works with Maskar’s after a small modification, which will be covered in the next part. This is one of the mods that I haven’t played with for too long, and there are definitely some additional or alternative combat mods I’m considering. Namely, Dynamic Oblivion Combat and Combat Additions.
Rounding out the trio is a magic overhaul. Supreme Magicka approaches magic in Oblivion in a similar way to Vanilla Combat Enhanced with combat: it seeks to improve and expand, without replacing. To continue similarities, this mod is one I haven’t sank my teeth into as much. The characters I’ve been playing most recently haven’t achieved very powerful magical capabilities yet. An alternative to this mod is Av Latta Magicka.
In the last part of this series, I want to walk through a complete install of Oblivion from scratch.