Skyrim Together Reborn on the Steam Deck

Editing to add 11/6/2022: This post is getting a little traffic still, so if you’re looking for tips about how to run Skyrim Together Reborn on a Steam Deck, please have a look at my more recent post where I give a thorough walkthrough about my setup.

This is a followup post to others I’ve been doing lately about getting Skyrim Together Reborn, a mod that allows you to play Skyrim as a group with friends, working on my Steam Deck.

Which has been a challenge. The mod is only officially supported on Windows, as I was advised outright on the STR Discord. And right now I’m not running Windows on the Deck. I’m not likely to change this any time soon, just because as I understand it, you can’t dual boot between operating systems directly on the device. And I’m not in a hurry to wipe SteamOS off the thing.

But since I’d gotten other Skyrim mods functional on the Deck, and since the Deck is currently my most powerful gaming device*, I wanted to see if I could make it work at all.

Deets behind the fold.

As per my earlier posts about Skyrim Together Reborn, getting that mod in particular to work had its own special challenges above and beyond what I’ve had to do for other mods. The main questions I had to solve were:

  1. Getting a viable mod setup going in general
  2. Getting STR’s own launcher to actually load, since it has a launcher separate from the main Skyrim executable
  3. Solving how to access STR’s server connection UI, which pretty much requires a keyboard

(* Most powerful gaming device at least until my new computer shows up! Which has now been ordered. So that’s going to be an interesting addition to my set of things I can game on!)

General viable mod setup

I’d just gotten to the point of having my mod setup working in general when Bethesda dropped the Skyrim update that broke the world. Recovering from that let me down a rabbit hole of having to completely reinstall things, including Skyrim itself, a couple of times.

For example, I kept having issues with Skyrim coming up ONLY wanting to allow keyboard control, and completely losing track of the Deck’s controller buttons. Not optimal. Since I had no idea what the hell caused that, I didn’t know how to recover from it except to reinstall everything.

As of this writing most of the current set of mods I’m interested in are back to working, with these exceptions:

  1. SkyUI
  2. Sounds of Skyrim
  3. Skyrim Flora Overhaul

The latter two of these are ones not immediately relevant to STR, since the official recommendation for playing it is to do so without mods, and even without the Anniversary Edition content.

My likely setup for STR though is going to be Anniversary Edition + USSEP. And I’d kind of wanted to get SkyUI working with it, since that is one of the small set of mods the people i want to play STR with want to see if we can run. But right now if I try to run SkyUI at all, even with the SKSE active, Skyrim is refusing to pick up on it. I don’t know if this is fallout from the recent updates or what, but I certainly appear to be blocked on using SkyUI for now.

Getting the STR launcher to load

Here’s the rough series of steps I had to go through to get this to work. I am not entirely sure which of these was the right magic incantation to get me going, so therefore I am not sure which of these are steps I didn’t actually need, but I’m documenting them all here to be thorough:

  1. Temporarily set Skyrim in my Steam to using Proton 7 as its compatibility tool so that I could launch SkyrimTogether.exe off my file explorer long enough to get the Wine prefix working
  2. Once I could launch SkyrimTogether.exe off the File Explorer, I also did a protontricks command on it to run winecfg for its prefix ID, and give it access to files and directories that start with a dot
  3. Then set Skyrim back to using Steam Tinker Launch
  4. Set up Winecfg.exe again as a tool in my Vortex, and got into its settings to explicitly turn on access to files and folders that start with a dot there, too
  5. Tried to also set up SkyrimTogether.exe as a launchable tool inside Vortex, but while that let me launch, I didn’t have proper controller access, so that wasn’t viable
  6. Set up SkyrimTogether.exe in my Steam, set its compatibility tool to Steam Tinker Launch, and also set the same STEAM_COMPAT_DATA_PATH value in its launch options that Skyrim has

Result: I can now finally launch STR out of Steam, or off the Desktop shortcut Steam let me create. It pipes through Vortex, and then shows me the nifty double dragon logo before shifting over to the gold AE one, and letting me go straight into Skyrim. 😀

Server UI problem

This, at least, was the easiest problem to solve. Since I’d already bought a Bluetooth keyboard expressly for the Deck, having that connected to the device with Bluetooth meant I had it available for typing.

But there are two problems with this keyboard.

One: Hitting Fn + F2 on it to launch an F2 actually throws me back out to the Desktop, it doesn’t act like F2 proper. So doing that as a means to launch the server connection UI wasn’t going to work.

Two: The keyboard also doesn’t have a right Ctrl key!

So the answer to this problem was, getting into my controller mappings and explicitly adding both F2 and Right Ctrl to the back buttons on the Deck. This did work, and let me launch the server connection UI so I could connect to a test server.

I’ve been pointed at this mod which claims it solves the problem of having keyboard and mouse available at the same time. I’m not entirely sure I need it, given that I do have an external keyboard. But it’s worth noting the mod’s existence nonetheless.

The one other problem I see with the STR UI in this scenario is that once it’s up, I cannot dismiss it. And it does occupy a fair amount of screen space on a screen as small as the Deck’s. This might interfere with things like getting at my inventory and spells and such. And if it becomes an active problem, this suggests to me that my optimal way to play STR on the Deck would be while it’s docked and using the TV as a monitor.

Which would, in turn, deny me access to the back buttons on the device. When the Deck is docked, the controller I’d use would be my Nintendo Switch Pro controller, which does not have back buttons. So this might be a situation where I’d have to use some other keyboard (like, say, the one currently plugged into my work box).

So this remains an open question. I can at least now experiment with playing on the Deck!

Testing so far

I was able to use the mapped back buttons on my controller to load the server UI last night, and connect to it properly. Steam button + Right trackpad gives me mouse control if I need it. So aside from the server connector UI kind of being in the way of the left menu, that worked pretty well.

Nobody was on the test server when I connected, so I can’t say yet how well playing with others will work. I’ll need to try this out with my wife and the friend we want to play with!

I can say though that when testing just following the road to Riverwood from Helgen, I got killed by wolves en route. I saw my screen fade to black and when it came back, I was frozen in place and couldn’t do anything else. I’ll need to play with this some more to see if this is expected behavior for STR or if it’s something unique to trying to run it on the Deck.

And right now there are no assets associated with STR in my Steam library, a thing I’d like to fix if possible, just because it’d be nice to have some art on it rather than a blank header. But that’s a purely “nice to have” thing, and not a functionality thing, so I’ll fix this if I can. More concerned right now though about the mod actually working!

More on this to come! And many thanks once again to Baguette of the Skyrim Together Discord who gave me all the useful tips to get my mod game going on this device. 😀

As Angela Highland, Angela is the writer of the Rebels of Adalonia epic fantasy series with Carina Press. As Angela Korra'ti, she writes the Free Court of Seattle urban fantasy series. She's also an amateur musician and devoted fan of Newfoundland and Quebecois traditional music.