I have done bad things to Skyrim. Very bad things. All with mods. I have turned everyone in Skyrim into both Argonians and Khajiits. I have brought armies of undead back to life. I have installed mods to get rid of the most horrible underwear ever and replace it with, well, nudity. For women and men, because I believe in equality. I have led armies of monsters against those racist Nords in Windhelm. I brought Miraak back from the dead, copied his attire and went around spraying tentacles at everyone. I’ve also gone around finding every male Argonian in Skyrim, turning them into followers then imprisoning them in my basement with 1000 bottles of Blackbriar Reserve.
The worst thing I have done though is burn Skyrim into ashes as a dragon, with lots of other dragons.
But those are actually not that bad when you think about it. Not when there are far, far worse things out there. I only recently discovered that there’s a whole community dedicated to not just adding tons of skimpy, basically nude armour for women (because everyone’s seen that!) but really sexing up quite a few of Bethesda’s games, not just Skyrim. Including the animals. Which is terrifying. But hey, whatever floats your boat.
Anyway, back to tearing Skyrim a new one. I normally do this via my favourite mod ever: Burning Skies.
Burning Skies allows one to turn into a dragon and fly around. Now, because of the complexity of it, not to mention how buggy it can be, how unusual the update schedule is, and the fact that Skyrim was not built for players becoming dragons, just using Burning Skies out of the box doesn’t work. You need some bits and pieces to make the most out of everything.
First off, you need Skyrim Script Extender (SKSE), which can be installed via Steam. You need to launch Skyrim via SKSE othewise nothing works. Just click Install Now and you’re golden.
Next you need SkyUI. Always a good mod to have since it tidies up the menu and fixes some annoying as heck bugs. Also lets you choose what kind of dragon you want to be.
Now for the mod itself. I have always installed Burning Skies from the Nexus, because it gets updated more frequently. You only need the main file for now.
Throw those all together, run Skyrim via SKSE, wait for SkyUI to register the MCM menu (the mod menu so you can change your settings) and you’ve got the basics. I recommend rebinding your Takeoff/Landing key to something other than E, so you can still loot things. Burning Skies fixes the tangled up mess that happens when you resize some dragons, so that’s free to change. I’ll also recommend disabling voices (so you use the default dragon sounds) and binding the transformation key to something far away.
In the dragon species menu thing, fire dragon is the red model used for Odahviing. Grey is Parthurnaax. Undead is Durnehviir. Also, Frost Dragon is best dragon.
Flight is somewhat tricky in Burning Skies. Look up and you’ll rise slowly, look down and you WILL fall to the ground incredibly quickly, but holding Space will make you climb steadily, no matter how much you look down.
Now to make it all better. First off, get Bellyache’s HD Dragon textures. Make yourself look beautiful. Alternatively, you can use any dragon retextures you want. I used to mess around with Bellyache’s new dragon species and move stuff around to use custom textures, but that’s a pain in the ass. Whatever you want, any textures you use on other dragons will work on your own dragon.
We need fire next. Fire breath is lame. I’ve always used Make Inferno to make fire do giant explosions and stuff. Plus, since fire breath is actually rather hard to aim when you’re a dragon, this leaves a nice AOE effect that makes life a lot easier. The Fire and Ice Overhaul is a more realistic version of Make Inferno but since both it and Burning Skies are script-intensive, lower-end computers will struggle. But pretty much everything by ApolloDown is always worth installing.
We also need Enhanced Camera. I would recommend this mod to pretty much anyone, whether they are a dragon or not. It’s so nice and simple and does the job. You stay permanently in First Person until you tell the game otherwise. Or until Burning Skies overrides it, but at least with Enhanced Camera, you can see yourself taking off and landing, which is cool. The optional file on Burning Skies comes into play here, the two mods together enable you to toggle between views, which makes aiming fire easier. I haven’t tested either of these with Dragon Animation Replace, that changes how dragons stand, but I dunno, I’m not a great fan of that mod.
Optionally, grab yourself a couple of dragon followers (i.e. Odahviing and Durnehviir – grab the Ultimate versions of them on the Steam Workshop if you wish) and start burning things. It’s up to you whether you make other dragons friendly to you or not, but it’s always amusing watching as they come and aid you in the destruction of whatever city you want to burn.
Finally, whether you do all of this or not, GET OPEN CITIES, IN THE NAME OF TALOS, GET OPEN CITIES. Seriously, it’s one of the best immersion mods you can get.
Sadly, if you want to be a dragon and play through the story 24/7, it’s not really possible. Being a dragon means everyone around you gets scared and runs away very easily and you’ll quickly get a large pile of burning guards and dead bodies. Unfortunately the instant-aggro of being a dragon means you’ll also instantly ‘assault’ members of the Thieves Guild with your very presence, if they’re out on the streets – this happens to Sapphire and whatshisname the fence in Markarth quite a lot.
It IS possible to do some of the inside areas. You can fly around Black Reach as much as you want, plenty of space and it makes for a pretty one-sided but otherwise cool battle with the dragon there, but most dungeons just won’t work, you’re too big. I tried going through Helgen and it simply doesn’t work, no matter how small you make your dragon-y self.
As for a proper character build? I’d recommend playing as an Argonian for that reptilian feel, but I guess a Nord could work too. Start the game using fire/frost spells/staffs only, until you get one of the dragon-y shouts, then using Flame Breath/Frost Breath and Unrelenting Force once you unlock them, focusing on destruction magic, heavy armour and speech. You could also use fire/frost-enchanted melee weaponry, but I wouldn’t use bows at all. Speech isn’t that useful, but I’ve always assumed that dragons were good at it. Frost Breath is easy to get early on, you can pop by to Bonestrewn Crest and it up on the way to Kynesgrove if you are doing the main quest.
I’d recommend avoiding becoming a Vampire Lord or Werewolf, and you should never change into a dragon while in either of those forms (or vice-versa) due to it all being, well, messy. Joining the Dawnguard might be a good idea. Clearly doing most quests as a dragon will be very tricky, but the Dark Brotherhood quests actually work out quite well. A dragon attack during Vittoria Vici’s wedding? The horror! No one would suspect that the Dark Brotherhood planned THAT. Housing is troublesome too, but as long as you transform back to human-shaped form before you go near a city, you won’t have problems. You could also live up with the Greybeards, or use any of the DIY DLC homes. I’m working on a home for people who want to remain a dragon as long as possible, but as I’ve mentioned before, I’m not great with the Creation Kit.
And that’s pretty much it. Now go burn things, my pretties!