Those Who Can, Do; Those Who Can’t, Teach
Since I can’t do anymore now I teach. I don’t want my knowledge to go to waste. This guide will show you, step-by-step, how to make a uniquely-voiced follower.
Edit: This guide is getting old now. It should still work, but I strongly suggest you read this addendum before attempting it.
Read on for Part 1 of the guide.
First, a little terminology. A follower is a character in Skyrim who travels with you, helps you in combat, and can help carry your stuff. A uniquely-voiced follower doesn’t use one of the standard voice sets that comes with the game — he or she speaks with sound clips you provide. This really gives your follower a distinct personality.
For this guide, you will need:
- A copy of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on PC.
- The Creation Kit (available free to Skyrim PC owners).
- Sounds for your follower’s unique voice. (This guide will show a few ways you might get these.)
Do you have Skyrim installed? If not, do it now. I’ll wait.
Next, do you have the Creation Kit installed? It’s free for owners of Skyrim. Here’s how to install it:
- Start Steam.
- Open your Game Library.
- There is a drop-down near the top that defaults to All Games. Change this to Tools.
- Find Creation Kit in the list. Double-click it.
- Follow the instructions.
- Once the Creation Kit is installed, repeat steps 1 through 4 to launch it.
We may need to install more stuff later, but this is all we need for this part of the guide.
Part 1 of the Guide — Making a Follower
In this first part of the guide we are simply going to make a follower, one without a unique voice. This part is actually fairly easy. It’s adding the voice that’ll take up most of your time.
Launch the Creation Kit
Now, before we can do anything we need to tell the Creation Kit what “base” to work off. We want to select just the base game files, without any custom mods.
- In the menu, click File then Data.
- A window appears. It should contain several items. You should at least see Skyrim.esm and Update.esm. Ensure both of these items are marked — they are official game content.
- Should you mark other items, if other items exist for you? In general, no, you shouldn’t. The exception to this rule is if you’re certain an item contains something your follower needs. Maybe you have a “Cool Swords” mod and you want your follower to wield one of these swords. Or maybe it’s the future and some official Skyrim expansions have come out, and you want your follower to exist in the newly created land-mass of the expansion. Interested readers can learn more about data files here.
In this guide I’m going to assume you’ve used only the two items mentioned in step 2.
- Click OK.
- If an error comes up, don’t be alarmed. It’s normal. Click Yes to all.
- Wait some more.
- Eventually, the Object Window will be populated with items. That’s when you know the Creation Kit is ready.
General Creation Kit Advice
The Creation Kit is a powerful tool. Treat it like a game of Jenga, only touch what you need to. Certain things, once created or modified, cannot be easily undone. If you put your sticky fingers all over something you didn’t need to, you might cause unnecessary conflict with a mod that actually wanted to tweak that thing.
To give you a taste of what I mean, look at how much of a chore an accidental delete can be:
Accidentally deleting an object from the database and then saving your .esp file before you realize what happened can be a tricky problem to fix. One solution is to load your .esp file but do not set it as active. Then duplicate all your cells and objects. Finally, save your work and you will be prompted to create a new .esp file. You should end up with a .esp file that has all the work you duplicated but does not contain any deletions.
But don’t get too concerned! I made a lot of mess the first time I made a mod. So I deleted it and started again. Because I was more experienced with the Creation Kit things were much faster the second time round, and a lot less messy too.
Create An Actor
- Can you see the Object Window? If not, go to the menu and click View then Object Window.
- Expand the Actors branch.
- Click on Actor. The names of many actors should appear on the right.
- Right-click somewhere on that list of actors that appeared. Click New.
- The Actor dialogue should appear. The next set of steps are done in this dialogue.
- Try not to mess with things in the Actor dialogue unless you’re instructed to. I purposely don’t mention things that should be left as default.
(Yeah, I know that sounds harsh, but if you mess about with too much you could break your actor. By all means experiment feel free to experiment and muck about, but perhaps wait until you’ve got a basic follower working first?)
ID Naming Conventions
Let’s talk about IDs for a moment. Two things can’t share the same ID. Now, doesn’t just mean you can’t use the ID of something that already exists in Skyrim — it also means you can’t use an ID from mods that potentially might get used with your mod.
How can you possibly know what IDs other mods might be using? Well, you can’t. But you can take a measure to protect yourself by prefixing every ID you create with something unique to your mod. In this guide, I’m going to prefix everything with “D16” because that’s the name of this website. I’m sure you can come up with something similar.
Not only is this a good way to guard against ID conflicts, but it’s a good way to keep organised. The Object Window has a Filter field — plug your special prefix in here and you can quickly find objects created by you.
So, let’s give your follower a ID and a name:
- In the top-left of the Actor dialogue, enter your actor’s ID. In my case, this is going to be “D16AnneEnpiseeActor”.
- Fill in the Name field. This should be their full name, such as “M’aiq the Liar”, “Alfhild Battle-Born” or “General Tullius”. (If your NPC just has a single name, like “Esbern”, then that’s all you need.)
- Fill in the Short Name field. This a shortened version of the NPC’s name, such as “M’aiq”, “Alfhild” or “Tullius”. If the name you entered in Step 2 is short enough, just leave this field blank.
Let’s set how your follower looks:
- Down the bottom of the Actor dialogue are two checkboxes under Preview: Full and Head. Check it. It won’t show you anything at first, that’s normal. But as you progress through the following steps it should start to show your character.
Feel free to swap between Full and Head as you’re going through the below steps. Also, note that sometimes if you make a change it won’t show up automatically — you can uncheck and recheck the Full or Head checkbox to fix this. If that stops working, click OK to save your Actor then re-open it.
Try increasing the size of the Actor dialogue to get a better view.
You can click inside the preview window to control the camera. Instructions for how to do this are here.
- In the Traits tab, choose a Race for your character. Choose a playable race (ArgonianRace, BretonRace, DarkElfRace, HighElfRace, ImperialRace, KhajiitRace, NordRace, OrcRace or WoodElfRace).
While it’s probably possible that other races will work (some easier than others) that’s beyond the scope of this guide.
- Check Female if that’s appropriate for your NPC.
- Tweak Height and Weight if you like. Don’t go too extreme — I won’t take the blame if your giant or microscopic NPC behaves strangely!
- Eventually we’ll give your follower a unique voice, but for now we need something temporary. For Voice Type, choose one of the following: MaleNord, FemaleEvenToned, MaleOrc, FemaleOrc, MaleArgonian or MaleKhajiit. Others may not have dialogue for follower functions and hence these functions will not be available in-game.
- Let’s give your follower some clothes. Click the Inventory tab.
- The Default Outfit is what your follower wears. Bear in mind that they’ll only wear stuff you give them if it is better than this default outfit. For this reason I suggest you choose something that is just clothing.
Be aware that some outfits are randomised — re-check Preview Full a few times for each outfit you’re looking at to test for this.
I’m going to give Anne ArmorHideSimpleOutfit.
- Look at the Character Gen Parts tab and the Character Gen Morphs tab. Lots of things in these tabs that alter your follower’s appearance. I won’t discuss everything in detail, it’s safe to experiment with the controls on these tabs, and you can see how it looks with the Preview Full and Head checkboxes.
More details about the Character Gen Parts tab can be seen here.
- Be aware of the so-called dark face bug. In short, it’s a bug where newly created NPCs have mismatched skin tones between their body and head. It’s fairly mild but noticable. You can see this bug in in-game screenshots of my follower, such as the screenshot at the bottom of this page. Fixing this bug is not discussed in this guide, but now that you’re aware of it you can search for more information. (Thanks to Aenara Gamer for alerting me to this!)
Let’s set how your follower acts and fights:
- You’re making a one-of-a-kind NPC, not something generic like a bandit or a soldier. So, on the left of the Actor dialogue, check Unique.
- In the same place, check either Essential or Protected. In either case your follower will collapse on all fours when badly injured — the difference beting Essential characters can never die in this state, but Protected characters can killed but only by the player.
(If you can’t see Essential and/or Protected, try clicking OK to save your character and re-open it.)
- Click on the Stats tab.
- Check the box PC Level Mult so the follower levels up with the player.
- The Level Mult controls how the follower’s level scales with the player. Competent followers, such as Jenassa the mercenary, have this set to 1.00. Hence, she is the same level as the player. Sven the civilian bard has a lower value of 0.75, which would make him (for example) level 7 when the player is level 10.
- Calc Min and Calc Max override the Level Mult, and ensure the follower can’t go outside these level boundaries. Followers in Skyrim have a max and min levels that reflects their competency — Sven the civilian bard goes from 6 to 20, Jenassa the mercenary goes from 10 to 40. However, you might prefer to set the maximum to 81 (the highest level the player can get to) so the follower never becomes obsolete.
- Change the Class to match the follower’s skill set. You can see the values change in the Skills table. Temporarily change the Calc Min value to see how the follower’s skills will be at that level.
- Some people recommend increasing the Speed value to something higher, like 125, so the follower keeps up better. However, most default Skyrim followers use the default value of 100. Set the value as you please, within reason.
- Click the AI Data tab.
- Set Aggression to Aggressive. An Unaggressive follower that won’t engage enemies isn’t much use. Don’t choose Very Aggressive or Frenzied unless you want the follower to attack neutral and/or friendly targets!
- Consider setting Confidence to Foolhardy to prevent your follower from running away. You can set it to a lower value, but a follower who runs away might be frustrating to work with.
- Assistance should be set to Helps Friends and Allies.
- Morality determines what crimes your follower will put up with. The values are fairly self-explanatory. Don’t worry — it’s never a crime to murder bandits, wildlife and enemy soldiers!
- Combat Style. It’s important to choose something other than NONE. What to choose exactly? You might want to start with csHumanBoss1H, csHumanBoss2H, csHumanMagic or csHumanMissile. Later on, you can experiment with other values, or look to see what value some of your favourite followers in Skyrim have.
- Click on the Inventory tab.
- You can add items by right-clicking on the inventory pane and selecting New.
- Consider giving your follower some weapons, ranged and/or melee. The player can always take these items away through trade if desired.
(Followers have strange behaviours with bows. Read more here.)
- You can give your follower armour above and beyond their outfit (which you should’ve already given them from instructions further above). They won’t wear it when not serving as a follower. When you recruit them, they will treat it identically to armour you traded to them (though you may need to “remind” them to equip it by giving them something else they can equip, or by entering/exiting a building or dungeon).
- Followers also know how to use torches and some types of potion (especially healing potions).
- Click on the SpellList tab.
- Add Spells and Perks as you see fit. It might be best to leave both empty for starters. Later on, you can experiment with other values, or look to see what value some of your favourite followers in Skyrim have.
Getting close! We now need to make some changes that will make this person available as a follower.
- Click on the Factions tab.
- Right-click in the Factions and Ranks area and click New to add two entries: CurrentFollowerFaction and PotentialFollowerFaction.
- Click CurrentFollowerFaction and push F2 to edit the value. Change it to -1. Leave PotentialFollowerFaction as zero.
That’s all you have to do in the Actor dialogue. Click OK.
We do need to do one more thing though:
- In the Object Window, find and click the Relationship entry (under Character).
- Right-click in the list of relationships and select New.
- For an ID, enter “PrefixFollowerPlayerRelationship”. For example, my ID will be “D16AnneEnpiseePlayer”.
- In the Parent NPC, select the follower you created.
- In the Child NPC, select Player.
- Set Relationship Level to Ally.
- Leave other value as default.
- Click OK.
Putting the Follower into Skyrim
The follower NPC is now fully defined. You just need to put him in the world somewhere.
- Look for the Cell View window. If you can’t see it, select View > Cell View Window from the menu.
- Let’s put your follower in the Winking Skeever Inn in Solitude. Scroll down the list for SolitudeWinkingSkeever. Double-click it.
- If any errors appear, click Yes to all.
- You should now see the Winking Skeever being displayed in a window inside the Creation Kit. We’ll call this the Render Window. Be careful when dealing with this… you want to avoid accidentally dragging NPC and other objects about.
- Click in the title bar of the Render Window (i.e. where it says [Free camera, perspective] to bring it into focus.
- Move your mouse pointer to inside the Render Window and scroll the mouse wheel to zoom out. Move your mouse pointer to inside the Render Window, hold down the middle mouse button and move the mouse to pan about.
- Look for a good spot on the floor to place your follower. Don’t worry, you don’t have to pick a perfect spot — your follower won’t stand there like a statue, they’ll wander around the inn.
- Now return to the Object Window.
- Click Actor (under Actors) and find your follower.
- Drag your actor from the Object Window to the Render Window.
- If any errors appear, click Yes to all.
- Fine-tune the placement of your actor. Click and drag with left mouse button to move them around the room. Do the same while holding the Z key on your keyboard to lower them to the floor.
- If you move your follower somewhere bad, or you accidentally move another object, you can undo your action by selecting Edit > Undo from the menu.
Saving and Loading Your Mod
You’ve made all the changes you need. Now it’s time to save your mod.
- In the menu, click File > Save.
- You will be prompted to pick a file name. Call it what you want but don’t change the folder (should be Skyrim\Data) and keep the *.esp extension. Hit Save when you’ve picked a name.
Done! We can test it now! But before we do, let’s learn how to load it again.
- Close the Creation Kit.
- Re-open the Creation Kit.
- From the menu, click File > Data.
- Ensure Skyrim.esm and Update.esm are checked (as well as any others you need, as we discussed up in the section called Launch the Creation Kit).
- You mod should also be in the list. Click it and push Set as Active File.
- While you’re here, you can take the time to edit the Created By and Summary fields. Or leave it blank. It’s optional.
- Click OK.
- If any errors appear, click Yes to all.
- Wait some more.
- Since we set your mod as the Active File, any changes we make are automatically added to your mod. That means that, when you save, you don’t have to pick a filename again. Try it. Click File > Save. Done, it’s saved. Remember to do this often as you work on your NPC — the Creation Kit does like to crash now and again!
Testing Your Follower
Let’s see your follower in-game!
- Start Skyrim.
- On the splash screen that appears, click Data Files.
- Ensure your mod is ticked and press OK.
- Click Play.
- Load a game, start a new game, whatever. Just travel to Solitude and enter the Winking Skeever. (It’s probably best not to load a game that you saved inside the Winking Skeever. I suspect — but am not certain — that might cause your follower not to appear.)
- Your follower should be there. You should be able to talk to them and have them follow you. They should function as a follower in all ways — helping you in combat, following you, waiting temporarily, trading (and using) your equipment, following your orders (“I need you to do something”). When told to “part ways”, they should return to the Winking Skeever.
- One minor thing to watch out for. Before they become your follower, they should be able to move around the Winking Skeever freely to sit, eat and dance. If they seem “stuck” try moving them elsewhere as per the instructions Putting the Follower into Skyrim, above.
In the next part of this guide, we will start giving your follower a custom voice.
Click here to see all parts of this guide series that have currently been written.