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Understanding Fallout 4's Sorting Order
Fallout 4 reads game mods in an indexed list from top to bottom with the bottom-most mods having priority over the top. They do not merge at runtime, which is why having a load order, knowing which mods conflict, and which of those conflicts are incompatibilities or overrides is important.
Load order determination becomes easier with practice. There are several basic concepts to understand before downloading mods of the same type or even those that have mod dependencies or are the dependencies of other mods.
Master Mods and Dependencies
A master mod is a mod whose records must be read by the game first before any other changes to those records. They can be actual master plugins or simply contain the first record to be read by another mod (a patch or addon).
On the Bethesda.net website, many mod authors have made use of the Required Dependencies tab. You will find it at the bottom of a mod page on PC or you can select it on your handheld device.
Fallout4.esm (Fallout base game) is the master plugin to all game records for the Commonwealth and some records within the DLCs.
Settlement Menu Manager is a master plugin to all settlement menu script assets of mods that are dependent on it. (Such as Creative Clutter)
More Complex Example
Armor Keywords Community Resource is a master plugin for all vanilla weapons and armors. Armorsmith is a plugin dependent of it that contains overwrites to the updates of Armor Keywords and contains new records and assets. It loads after Armor Keywords.
Unified Clothing Overhaul is a plugin dependent of Armor Keywords but not of Armorsmith that makes its own updates to the vanilla armors. Armorsmith on Xbox is very dated and causes crashes in the workbenches with certain mods and does not have the keywords for Creation Club. UCO does have the keywords on vanilla weapons and armors for Creation Club as well as its own new records so must overwrite Armorsmith on Xbox.
Armor and weapons mods that are dependent upon Armor Keywords and Armorsmith are plugin dependents and must load lower than Unified Clothing Overhaul.
Any vanilla armors changes must have a compatibility patch for use with Armor Keywords or the record changes for Armor Keywords will not show up when you play. Because of the complexity of weapons and armors, this could lead to crashes in the workbench if the armor or weapon is not implemented properly.
Scripts vs Hard Edits
Mods that touch the base game records (or the records of other mods) without using scripting are called Hard Edits. Mods that use a text file written in FO4's native Papyrus scripting language are Scripted Edits. Mods that Script-Inject add new records.
Script-injected mods have a special placement within your load order when used with mods that make Hard Edit changes to the same records – a weapon or armor script-injected to the leveled item lists, for example. Hard Edits are considered masters and script-injected are considered dependents. The Hard Edits must come first to make the initial record changes and then followed by the script-injected mod.
Reading a mod page's description is vital in understanding placement of mods. If there is not enough information to make a decision, you may well be better off passing on the mod and finding one with a better description so you don't have to waste time by fighting with your load order.
Installing in the wrong order may either result in some items not showing up or outright crashes when the mod's script attempts to communicate. The primary worry is that objects aren't showing up rather than crashing.
In the case of the wrong order placement for Settlement Menu Manager, you will lose workshop menus. In the case of wrong order for leveled items, enemies that are supposed to have weapons will only be able to melee with their fists. In both cases, a restart of the game is necessary after you've re-ordered. Because we cannot see what's under the hood on Xbox, we must operate on the assumption that the scripting is only set to run once at game start – that is, when you select NEW in the Main Menu.
Conflict Resolution and Conflict Winners
The whole point of Load Order is conflict resolution. You can only change a record once. This is known as the Rule of One. There are five options to resolve conflicts for PC players but only four options are available for console players.
- Remove one or both mods causing conflict - If they do not play nice together, especially if the conflict is causing crashes, one or both need the boot.
- Resolve conflict with a compatibility patch - Console players, unless they own two copies of the game and are willing to make their own, must rely on the community to make compatibility patches for them. Some PC players prefer to rely on community-made patches and fixes.
- Create your own compatibility patch - Resolve conflicts by adding records to a patch using either the official editor or xEdit.
- Change the Load Order - Oftentimes simply moving a mod below another will resolve the conflict by overriding the records of choice.
- Don't do a thing - Some conflicts are not harmful and may not be something important enough to care about.
Understanding Conflicts and Overrides
Like Mods with Like Mods
Keeping like mods with like mods and grouping mods into categories keeps you organized and helps you to see what could possibly be a Rule of One Conflict or a simple record override. Read the mod description to determine the best starting placement.
Some mods can be used together to override changes one has made. Mods themselves override the original records of Fallout 4 to impart changes a mod author wants.
Types of Overrides
- Compatibility patches
- Addons - some mod authors have additional plugins for their mods that override previous changes
- Unofficial patches to other mods - some mod authors like only part of another's mod but have ideas for other things and so add their own overrides
There are several different types of conflict but the basics is that conflict occurs when two mods modify the same record. This record can be in the form of a base game record, a script, or another asset. Always keep in mind the Rule of One when selecting mods.
Types of Conflicts
- If two weapons mods edit the same base gun or any of its keywords, they will conflict and need a compatibility patch to work together.
- If a mod that disables the precombines and then rebuilds them to suit their mod to add their items or settlement to the world and another mod rebuilds the base game precombines, those two mods will need a compatibility patch.
- If two scrap mods edit the same base game scrap lists, those two mods will be incompatible. While a compatibility patch would work, the general rule for scrap mods is to choose only one for purposes of stability.
- If two weather mods modify the same sound record or cloud record, those two mods will conflict. In this instance this is an incompatibility.
Some mods do not work together at all. These types of mods will be editing the same record. Whatever is lowest will have priority over the top. Some incompatibility will cause issues for the game or other mods in your load order.
Types of Incompatibilities
ModA modifies the vanilla texture of a road as part of a graphical overhaul. ModB also modifies the vanilla textures of a road as part of a different graphical overhaul. These two cannot be used together because 1) it would be a waste of space to keep the conflict loser and 2) there is no way to resolve an asset conflict of this nature.
Some conflicts are more dangerous, such as two different scripts attempting to do the same thing to the same record, but by using different methods. This type of script conflict could lead to your game not loading or the game not functioning optimally or CTD after a while.