Life in Skyrim

Non-player characters (NPCs) have jobs to go to during the day and homes to rest in at night along with other places to visit such as the tavern. However, these NPCs don’t do much else besides crunch on a bread loaf or sleep fully clothed. A few NPCs never move waiting for the PC to ask a question, standing at their post all hours day and night. In my post on environment immersion, we found how “Wet and Cold” altered NPC behavior by donning cloaks or going indoors during bad weather. It would be nice to see NPCs show more life and variety.

Keep in mind this is an RPG with random and significant encounters. The player’s character (PC) will never meet all citizens, and may ignore much of the ordinary wildlife. Town and wildlife populations are bigger than it might seem in the landscape compressed by space and time leaving insignificant persons and animals to imagination. Still, it may seem odd the PC doesn’t randomly encounter more variety. “Velexia’s Animals are not Monsters” addresses the wildlife issue. I haven’t tried it due to my concerns over random encounters and game balance. My initial thought would be a need for increased encounters, or keeping the animal encounters at a mininum so the PC mostly deals with more aggressive creatures. Many predators may simply hide in the woods going unnoticed.

The PC should be able to do some ordinary life needs. I’ve always wanted to join the skinny-dipping hunters in hot springs, but my character could only just stand there. Bathing might be nice, too, and meaningful if getting dirty hinders speechcraft or health.

Not every life detail needs included. Some things can be left to imagination.

Several of my selected mods are primarily for immersion bordering on cosmetic, but others alter gameplay. As always, trying mods come with risk. Start a new game or back up a save point before testing a mod. If you’re new to adding mods, see my first post in this series.


It seems crazy when the fisherman, the cart merchant, and the beggar join the fight against the Master Vampire instead of running. “When Vampires Attack” addresses this similar to “Run For Your Lives.” If NPC reaction is all you’re looking for, consider the improved handling offered by “Immersive Citizens - AI Overhaul” (ICAIO) and choose the “Lite” option.

For more in-depth citizen behavior, “Immersive Citizens” full version includes survival instincts and improved human behavior such as social interactions and daily activities. Citizens will go shopping, pray, and change positions. The innkeeper will actually keep hours! I like that I come accross some NPCs I rarely see. Read the description page for details. The full version of ICAIO must be loaded after some customized homes, and may not be compatible with Northern Bathhouses and some city-altering mods such as ETaC.

In the screenshot below, we see the carriage driver sitting on a rock and reading a book instead of waiting on the wagon. Just one of the little things how ICAIO adds variety to life in Skyrim.


Immersive Citizens” makes nice work of existing unnused voiced dialogue. Hearing more conversation brings Whiterun to life. (Also see “Cutting Room Floor” by Arthmoor.) “Immersive Citizens” is a work in progress, and as of v0.3.5, only a few towns have been improved in this way along with general NPC reactions for all of Skyrim. This plugin also includes weather reaction and is compatible with “Wet and Cold.” The survival instincts make “When Vampires Attack” by Arthmoor redundant. If adding more NPCs later in game, restart ICAIO via in-game options to acknowledge these new characters.

Roadside thieves and assasins use invisibility. It might seem strange, but you could imagine some thieves are sneaking successfully instead of using magic or potions.

As of v3.0, there are two options available on installation: full option for everything and a “Lite” option for just the general NPC reactions. The lightweight option is great for those just looking for improved combat and smarter dragon and vampire reactions.

For ICAIO (full), I recommend using USLeEP/USkP. Playing without USkP works fine for the most part, but there may be some issues. I found problems in Morthal (v0.2.5.1 - which may have since been resovled in later verions), one preventing progression in “Laid to Rest” quest. The workaround I discovered is to begin a new game without ICAIO and then add ICAIO (observing load order recommendations) after escaping Helgen. The updated routines can sometimes become annoying, such as crowded shops or indoor shop owners going home in bad weather for no reason. After some play time the new routines may become old hat, so some players may prefer the lightweight version best for the much valued survival instincts.

On compatibility with town overhauls and modified homes, there may be some wrinkles. See this Reddit topic for more about this plugin, some drama over compatibility patching on this Reddit topic, and also see this STEP topic starting on page 12. The good news is that as of v3.0, the “Lite” option is compatible with nearly everything. Much later, Arnaud dOrchymont (Shurah) has become more open to other mod authors creating patches as noted here on 8 Nov 2016.

Also note if using both ELFX with Enhancer plus a modified home, such as Breezehome, then the recommended load order is not achievable. ICAIO author states that ICAIO plugin must load between the main ELFX plugin and Enhancer plugin, and also that ICAIO plugin must load after Breezehome plugin. Since ELFX proper load order positions Enhancer and the No-Breezhome plugins above the Breezehome plugin, then ICAIO’s position will not fit within both recommendations. One could go create a patch combining the intended edits of each plugin, or use the ICAIO Lite.

Knock, knock - “Is someone there?”

A locked door often means waiting outside, returning later, or breaking into a home. And feeling foolish. Knock on a door with “Simply Knock”, and the occupant’s voice may greet your character allowing for some persuasion to open up. Door knocking isn’t a new idea, but as explained on the description page, the creator found a way to identify where the door leads (non-trivial for modders) and the character occupying the space leading to improved immersion. Successful persuasion results in the door unlocking, or optionally, occupants may always open their home to a friend (having completed a quest).

I found the default settings for “Simply Knock” too welcoming, so I adjusted the base chance from 50% down to 33% and disabled friends always unlock the door. Even friends need their quiet time, right?

Alternate Life

If you’ve played Skyrim before, how about trying a new beginning with “Skyrim Unbound” alternative-life mod? This mod works best with SkyUI and its Mod-Control Menu (MCM) to pick starting options and begin the game. It’s fun beginning at a random location with random items creating a new RPG experience. I like the option of disabling random dragon encounters, because there are far more dragons than burial mounds. Too many random dragons can become annoying reducing their importance and impact on the story. Of course, you could just avoid fetching the Dragonstone delaying dragon encounters.

I recommend playing as Dragonborn (choose your dragon appearance time) or no dragons at all. In the normal game NPCs may hurt dragons, but the Dragonborn must strike at least once to absorb the soul and defeat the dragon. With dragons it’s best to be Dragonborn. “Skyrim Unbound” also makes for a nice way to start if playing fully customized world without the main quest. Instead of subscribing in Steam, you may download directly and add to a mod manager.

I usually end up doing the starter quests around Riverwood early on anyway, so I only use this alternate start for quick tests. Dragons can be avoided by not completing the Dragonstone quest.


Natural-behaving followers

Do you like how Serana (Dawnguard DLC) and Frea (Dragonbron DLC) keep busy instead of standing at attention? Other followers can feel more natural using “Followers Can Relax” mod. Choose “We’ll stay here for a while…” in the dialogue to tell a follower to relax in the immediate area or stay close by. The follower can also be instructed to gather ingredients. Choosing “Let’s go” in dialogue to return to normal following behavior. For more features consider “Amazing Follower Tweaks (AFT)”, and remember to check for compatibility with other mods.

Some custom followers, such as “Companion Selene Kate”, come with natural behavior. Kate keeps busy with tasks, drinking, laughing, and making comments using original Skyrim voice type. She borrows comments from NPCs sometimes with amusing results. What I like about Kate: she never breaks stealth until the Dragonborn is spotted, and she can be set in a support-only role, not engaging with foes and optionally healing the player. Kate is a bit overpowered so I turn off most of her abilities found in MCM except “Aura Blade” and healing. Unfortunately, Kate comes with a shield similar to Auriel’s Sheild, which to me, should be unique and special. Solve by replacing her shield with another as all of her equipment may be exchanged. Selene Kate is a spirited, natural-behaving follower. Kate comes with many FNIS animations, but can be trimmed down if your FNIS animation counts are getting too high.

For a more lore-friendly follower with a personality, try “Arissa - The Wandering Rogue” by Chesko.

Follower mods can eat up resources; be script heavy. Best to limit to one or two, or consider going without if other mods are more important. Consider your theme and current playthrough goals.


Choose one, or none:

By the way, I don’t use AFT or UFO so I can’t comment on compatibility or features, but Hawxog made an informational comparison video.


In TES IV: Oblivion, NPCs removed clothing before going to bed, so I was surprised to find NPCs in bed wearing armor when I first played Skyrim. Perhaps the designers had some issues, or it felt weird to pick-pocket an undressed character. Everyone sleeping fully dressed all the time truly bugs me. I’m okay with a soldier napping outside dressed in armor, but a Companion inside Jorvasker should strip down for bed!


There are a few mods to choose from. “Sleep Tight” comes close, but it’s not for me. It adds an extra gameplay feature making sleeping NPCs easier to kill, also breaking the game for vampire feeding. Sleeping NPCs are already easy to murder. I chose “Undress For Bed” because it does just that, and nothing more. It has an option to include bedrolls or just indoor beds. I chose no bedroll. It’s cold outside. One unfortunate change to gameplay: it becomes easier to pickpocket clothing during sleep resulting in the NPC going about the following day undressed, a trick otherwise requiring near-maximum pickpocket skill. Could feel like cheating.

Your character may sit or lay down on a bedroll without sleeping in a “Campfire” pitched tent, but what about relaxing anywhere? “Campfire” supports sitting around the fire, and without making a fire allowing to just sit nearly anywhere outdoors with followers (dog, too). Of course, the fire is nice and keeps everyone warm along with cooking food to eat. Pitch a tent nearby to stay warmer. For more tents, bedrolls, and camp furniture, check out “Tentapalooza” by Rusey built using the “Campfire” Framework. The framework dev kit is easy enough that a person with minimal Creation Kit skill could make a simple bedroll for personal use. Give it a try!

Nordic Bath and bathing

TES II: Daggerfall had bath houses (and temples with members lounging around undressed), but Skyrim is oddly without saunas. No private garden baths in homes. No sweat lodges. Skyrim is a cold, harsh land. It needs a bath-houses for warm relaxation. I look for buildings that fit the theme and don’t include cheats such as hundreds of ingots stacked in the basement for no good reason.

A few bath-house mods can be found on Nexusmods, some suffering from modern design, having primary purpose of displaying naked characters, or accessing cheats. You might check out work-in-progress, “Northern Bathhouses” which reportedly contains a few bugs, and it doesn’t work with “Immersive Citizens” full version. The “Solitude Public Bathhouse” looks nice, but contains the quest item, Arch-Mage Robes, for no good reason. Followers may sit in the sauna fully clothed, too.

The most complete, if a bit extravagant, bathhouse is “Bathing Beauties or Beefcake Luxury Suite” by Migal and OldMansBeard, which has improved (v6.2) since I first looked at it. Still too modern-like in execution, a bit large, and contains cheats in the basement, some of which may be disabled in MCM. Set apart from the main building, a home has been added, which looks pretty nice. The suite is in a good location and fits in with the landscape. Many features are optional as Migal allows the player to use the bathhouse as a business, home, harem, outfit customizer, or however the player sees fit. Clothing automatically removes upon entering pools, and NPCs redress on exit. Authors recommend USLeEP for all feature functionality.

I found one custom home I love which contains a private sweat lodge in Nord tradition and an outdoor sauna. Best of all, “Riverside Lodge” by Lupus is compatible with “Frostfall” - characters won’t freeze in the tub! Riverside is located in an out-of-the-way spot near Whiterun, and although large, the design is similar to other Skyrim homes including decoration. NPCs will automatically undress/dress when entering/leaving the sauna and tub for immersion. Your character will auto-undress when sitting on the bench. After leaving the sauna don’t forget to dress. There’s even an outhouse in back. The downside to “Riverside Lodge” is that it’s free. You could always pay for Breezehome and use this house instead.


Also by Lupus, the smaller “Mammoth Manor” includes a sweat lodge beside the lake.

Moving the “Hearthfire” family requires another mod. “Custom Family Home” uses a Power to guide you through programming the custom home with key locations for children, steward, bard, and spouse to sleep, play, and work. Keep in mind that region-specific dialogue may take a few days to change if at all. Another option is “Hearthfire multiple adoptions” which allows adopting more than two children (up to 6) in addition to moving into custom homes.

Bathing in Skyrim” mod adds bathing to gameplay. Your character (and NPCs if you choose using dialogue) becomes dirty over time lowering speechcraft and stealth. A variety of scented soaps may be created using a cooking pot and ingredients offering minor bonuses. The bathing animation requires additional mods: “Fores New Idles in Skyrim - FNIS” a utility for new animations, and the animation itself, “Private Needs Discreet (direct download)” animation file, which is an optional file for “EatingSleepingDrinking” mod by gekkou1992. You may also want SkyUI to adjust settings and review NPC status in MCM. Requires SKSE. In MCM, choose the FNIS animations. For improved performance, adjust the Update Interval from 1.00 to 3.00.

Note that auto-dressing may put on another item of the same name, or enchantments on boots and headgear may fail to apply due to game limitation. Manually dress to ensure correct items and enchantments.

I chose not to use “Bathing in Skyrim” since bathing in freezing rivers and coastlines are not ideal, and the extra script overhead. More work could be done for proper bath-house and washbasin support. Also, I found I only cared about dirty status of followers making the dialogue overhead less suitable. I’m fine with imagining getting cleaned up during normal rest activities.

“Palaces and Castles Enhanced” includes bath halls for court members.

Choose one, or none:

Life requirements

If you’re interested in life requirements, check out “iNeed” for eating, sleeping, and drinking. Chesko is also working on “First Seed” to cover nutrition requirements. One could always assume basic needs, and leave such things to imagination, but sometimes it’s fun to add more impact on choices made.

Skyrim and The Elder Scrolls are trademarks of Bethesda Softworks LLC, ZeniMax Media. All other trademarks belong to their respective owners.