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Dragonballs: Modded Original Skyrim Saves Won't Work In Skyrim Special Edition

Also how to activate non-standard resolutions

Bad news, old chum, ol' pal, ol' mate of mine. You know that Skyrim savegame you invested hundreds of hours into? All those dead dragons, all those crafted weapons, all those mysteriously naked townsfolk? Gone, all gone. It's the end of the world as you knew it circa 2011-2013. Unless, of course, you stick with the original version of Skyrim instead of the freshly-released The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition [official site], or somehow never, ever added a mod to it.

This isn't much of a problem in consoleland, where modding wasn't really a thing, but over on a PC a great many of us chucked two, three or several dozen mods into our Skyrim installations. Blame the ease of Steam Workshop integration, blame the bugs, console-focused limitations and interface problems in the PC version - whichever, modding was both easy and appealing. And if you ever modded your original Skyrim install, none of your saves from it will work.

The Special Edition does boast the option to load saves from the original game - achieved via manually copying files from your My Documents/My Games/Skyrim folder to My Documents/My Games/Skyrim Special Edition - but try to load one that ever had a mod attached and the game will crash.

Unfortunately, this remains the case even if you strip all mods from your original Skyrim installation, load a savegame (ignoring its content-not-AVAILABLE messages) then re-save as, essentially, a 'clean' copy. The clean save will still prompt a "relies on content that is no longer available" message, and if you see that, you're in for a crash.

There will likely be some exceptions I'm sure, when a mod was minor or did not affect 'content', as the game puts it, but I've tried and failed with dozens of different saves across three different characters with no luck.

What that means, for now at least, is that you either need to have resolutely bellowed Get The Behind Me, SKSE at mods for the last five years, or that you will have to start a new game in the Special Edition. It's back to tattered rags and poking crabs with rusty short swords for you, chum.

However, it's not impossible that a fix might be found. There are two ways this could happen: 1) Bethesda manage to patch Skyrim SE so that it will have a good go at loading a modded save, in the way that Skyrim original often can even if the mods aren't present. 2) Every mod you used gets updated and ported over to Skyrim SE, and the game then magically treats 'em as being the exact same content as the save requires.

Frankly, I don't fancy your chances either way. I suspect there will be third-party savegame editing tools that will allow some data to be carried across before too long, but that will probably be all we get.

This is all very unfortunate, though in my case it's not entirely a bad thing. I loaded up my last savegame, from February 2013, in Skyrim original, and had absolutely no idea where I was, what I was doing and, most of all, whatever it was I had cared about. My best bet of enjoying Skyrim again is to start afresh, not to try and commune with my past self. I'd love to have the choice at least, mind you - let's hope something impossible does happen.

Oh, while I'm here, I'll note that Skyrim SE does not offer an option for non-standard resolutions. If you've got a 21:9 or 5:4 monitor or anything that isn't 4:3, 16:9 or 16:10, you won't be able to select its native res. This is easily fixed by popping over to My Documents/My Games/Skyrim Special Edition, then opening SkyrimPrefs.ini in Notepad or similar. Search for these lines:

bFull Screen=
iSize H=
iSize W=

Then change to the following

bFull Screen=1
iSize H=yourresolutionheight
iSize W=yourresolutionwidth

Changing ourresolutionheight/width as approprioate to your screen. Then save the file, back out to Windows Explorer, right click on the same file, hit Properties and select Read Only under Attributes at the bottom. Note that you won't be able to change any other graphics settings in-game after Read Onlying, so make sure you're happy with everything else before you do this.

I'll be writing separately about how Skyrim SE stacks up against the original later on, FYI, but in short: there's really not much in it, given we could already pump the game much higher thanks to a) having a PC rather than a last-gen console and b) mods.

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

PS3, Xbox 360, PC

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Alec Meer avatar

Alec Meer


Ancient co-founder of RPS. Long gone. Now mostly writes for rather than about video games.