I tried to run Kendeshel last night to take her forward from level 5, only to discover a problem. I started running the quest In My Time of Need in Whiterun, the one where you have to decide between helping the Redguard fugitive Saadia, or the Alik’r warriors led by Kematu who are looking for her.
The problem: Saadia’s face was fucked up, showing the so-called “black face” bug I’ve seen a lot of references to in looking up how to mod Skyrim properly.
For those of you who may not be familiar with this, this can often be caused by when you have conflicting mods in your load order that are both trying to edit the same NPCs. And if the mods aren’t reporting NPC data properly, it can kick the game into this weird state where it basically just throws up its hands and defaults to showing faces that are completely black.
In my case, it was caused by the mod I was using to give Kendeshel that nifty hairdo with the cornrows in front and the big poofy loose hair in the back. The mod is called Redguard F Hair Grouped and Replacer, and as it turns out, it also gives its new hairstyles to female Redguard NPCs. But at least in my particular load order, it was not doing it smoothly.
After I saw the problem with Saadia, I checked Ahlam and Saffir too, the other two Redguard women you can find in Whiterun. And I realized after the fact that I’d also seen it with Sayma, the proprietor of Bits and Pieces in Solitude.
So here’s the screenshot that I took of Sayma in that first session, where you can see the problem. I didn’t catch it at the time because the lighting in the shop was kind of dark anyway! But I can definitely see, on closer inspection, that Sayma’s face here is darker than her hands and her upper chest.
By comparison, you can see what Sayma is supposed to look like at her page on the UESP wiki.
Since I am a software tester, I did try several things first to see if I could address this problem, including:
- Reinstalling the hairdo mod
- Since it comes with a variety of plugins, I tried disabling the one that hides default Redguard female hairstyles
- Putting all of the hairdo’s plugins into the Late Loaders group in Vortex
And I even tried just uninstalling the mod, at which point I saw that the NPCs reverted to their normal appearance. But that also meant my character was suddenly bald.
I legit considered leaving her like that and just letting this stand until I found the Face Sculptor in Riften. But I saw two problems with that.
One, given that this is my first Legacy of the Dragonborn playthrough, I had no real idea when I’d actually make it to Riften. And given that I’m also anticipating that this will not be a Thieves Guild playthrough, that strongly suggests that I wouldn’t make it to the Face Sculptor until I run A Cornered Rat and get Esbern out of the Ratway. Which I don’t generally do until later on in a playthrough! So I didn’t really want to wait that long to fix Kendeshel’s hair.
And two, even though the mod I was using was a hairdo mod and in theory was fine to uninstall as long as neither the player nor any NPCs were explicitly using those styles, I was still feeling paranoid about fucking around with my load order after what happened in Harrow’s run.
So I erred on the side of caution, and decided to just punt the playthrough and start over. This is at least way easier at this point, after only doing one session, than it would have been three or four weeks of play later!
And there was a silver lining for this particular cloud, too. It gave me the opportunity to grab a mod I’d forgotten to install doing this play order setup: namely, The Curator’s Companion, which is supposed to help you track a bunch of things in Legacy of the Dragonborn more easily. And by the recommendation of that mod page’s Requirements section, I also grabbed moreHUD, moreHUD Inventory Edition, and Wider MCM Menu for SkyUI.
Later on, I need to learn more about how to address fixing this face discoloration issue in the future. I’m given to understand that the proper way to handle it is with SSEEdit, but it requires you to load up offending conflicting mods, find the info on the NPCs that are broken, and make a patch for the problem. As an SDET used to dealing with funky complex tools in my day job, I definitely have the technical chops to do this, and I am interested in learning more about the underlying mechanics of how a game like Skyrim works.
But not on an active playthrough in progress. This is the kind of thing I’d want to explore on a test playthrough, where if I screw something up, I won’t care if I have to toss it. More on this later, too!
For now, I just want to work on getting Kendeshel underway again. I re-did her character creation last night, got her into Solitude, saw Roggvir’s execution, and parked her at the museum. Tonight, I’ll get her back down to Whiterun and then Helgen, and re-run Bleak Falls Barrow. More on this to come.
I’ll also do a separate post with the revised and updated load order for this run!