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[RELz] Open Cities Skyrim


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Open Cities Skyrim is a comprehensive project that aims to bring back at least part of the feel of Morrowind - specifically how most of the cities were a natural part of the world and you could just walk in without loading screens. The added immersion and realism goes a long way, probably a lot more than you might think. Ever wanted to ride your horse into the center of Riften? Well now you can. Need to get some help from the city guards to vanquish a foe? Run toward the gates and the guards will do their duty while you can seek safety within the walls. The town guards make for some very interesting interactions this way. This will also make running dragon battles that much more interesting since the flow of the battle won't be interrupted by the loading screen and all of the city guards can be involved at the same time.

AFK Mods
Bethesda.net - PC + XB1

Open Cities Skyrim Bugtracker

Installation Requirements

Skyrim Special Edition 1.6.1130 or greater.
Unofficial Skyrim Special Edition Patch 4.3.0 or greater.

DO NOT extract the contents of the BSA file into your Data folder as loose files, or let your mod manager perform an equivalent function on the contents of the file. Doing so will cause things to load in the wrong order and break the game. Skyrim is intended to load a BSA alongside it's ESM/ESP file. Circumventing this causes issues which I will not provide support for. If you insist on going against this advice, you will receive no support for the problems you generate as a result of this.

Installation - Wrye Bash BAIN

Drop the archive into your Skyrim Mods\Bash Installers folder, then install as usual.
Make sure the mod is active in the Wrye Bash mods tab.

Installation - Manual

Drop the Open Cities Skyrim.esp, Open Cities Skyrim.bsa, and Open Cities Skyrim - Textures.bsa files into your Data folder.
Activate the mod using whatever management tool suits you.

Post Install Configuration

Set the mod's load order using whatever management tool you feel most comfortable with.

It may also be necessary to rebuild your Bashed Patch if you're using one.

Once the game loads, you need to allow 24+ game hours to pass for AI to fully update in each city.

You can configure three options in-game by using a book that's been placed inside the Temple of Kynareth. This book is free for you to take with you, and you can put it on a bookshel anywhere you want. It would be STRONGLY recommended that you do not destroy it in some way because the menu will be inaccessible without it.

Option 1: Oblivion Gates. The menu will now allow you to toggle them on or off as desired, on the fly, with no external patches necessary. If you have any such patches, uninstall them. They'll crash the game now.

Option 2: Gate Attendants. The gate attendants who open the city gates when you approach on horseback can be toggled on or off as desired. Yes, some people despised them enough to ask for this. Don't ask me why.

Option 3: Outdoor Lighting System. You can toggle the state of the outdoor lighting system as desired. Nobody asked for this, but I figured what the heck. I was messing with MCM anyway so why not.

These optional configuration elements will not be supported through any other mechanism.

Uninstalling Open Cities Skyrim
Due to the nature of Skyrim mods, especially those adding scripts, it is strongly discouraged to attempt uninstalling a mod from your active game. Any mod that is more than pure mesh or texture replacements has the possibility to leave behind permanent changes to your save that you may not want. This is not something modders can correct for. It is how the game was designed by Bethesda. No support will be provided for anyone who uninstalls this mod from an active game and continues on with that save.

Load Order

Open Cities Skyrim should be loaded as late as possible in order to preserve changes to navmeshes and other exterior city data.
LOOT should be used for optimal placement.

Built-in Compatibility

Falskaar             - Jalamar's AI markers will be moved into the proper places in Riften.

Compatibility Patches

Skyrim Sewers 4        - Available in the patch archive at the Open Cities Skyrim download sites (except Steam).
Drinking Fountains of Skyrim - Available in the patch archive at the Open Cities Skyrim download sites (except Steam).
Dawn of Skyrim Collection
Immersive Citizens - AI Overhaul - Included in Shurah's installer.


Mods which strictly replace vanilla textures or the vanilla meshes are 100% compatible.

Expanded Towns and Cities has been confirmed to be 100% compatible since it does not affect the 5 walled cities.

Generally speaking, any mod which adds things to the closed cities will be incompatible.

City mods that add some details to the open worldspace will be partially compatible.

Alternate Start: Live Another Life - Fully compatible. No patches needed.

The Last Defeat of the Dragon Cult - The mod hasn't been updated since March 2012. It's navmeshes are partially corrupted and must be repaired.

More Dynamic Shadows & Striping Fix - Numerous dirty edits that cause some interiors to cease functioning.

Mods which edit the following scripts will not be compatible unless patched:


Known Issues

The Civil War battles which take place in Whiterun, Solitude, and Windhelm will be fought within the closed city worldspaces. This had to be done due to complications that were not possible to overcome with the scripting involved in the war and how it relates to several other quests. Expect load door transitions when a city battle is underway.

Troubleshooting Problems

If you have a problem with an Open Cities mod and wish to report it, I'd appreciate as much information as possible, preferably in the form of a screenshot with console data showing if it's something that can be screened. The FormID of the affected object would help greatly to narrow down any problems that might result. Post this information along with your load order. Reports with less than detailed information may result in delays in getting it fixed, or result in being ignored entirely. It helps everyone to provide details. I am especially interested in verifiable conflicts, as I wish for Open Cities Skyrim to be as conflict-free as is humanly possible given the circumstances. If the situation requires a patch, I can only work something out if I know what to look for.

The doors inside Warmaidens (in Whiterun) are missing, what have you done with them!

The More Dynamic Shadows & Striping Fix mod makes a bunch of dirty edits in Warmaidens that will cause the doors to disappear. This mod has several other problem locations as well and it isn't recommended to be used in general until the author fixes the problem.

Locations of AI Doors

The AI doors are entry ways into the closed wordspaces should it become necessary. Not everything that is placed in a city by a mod is worth the time it takes to create a patch. Mods that drop items for a one-time pickup are a good example of this. It's much easier to just go through the door, get what you need, then exit the city as normal.

Riften: East of the main city gate, next to the alley gate.
Markarth: Enter the city gate, turn immediately to your right. The small rock in the grass patch next to the ivy.
Whiterun #1: East side of the bridge into the city, right next to the brazier that is closest to the guard shack.
Whiterun #2: North side of Jorvaskr, on the side of the path up to the Skyforge.
Solitude #1: In the rock pile between the city gate and the executioner's platform.
Solitude #2: In the rock pile across from the Bard's College, immediately to the south of the manhole cover.
Windhelm: As you enter the city gate, turn immediately to the right, then immediately right again. It's in the bushes right next to the wall.

Performance and FPS

Open Cities Skyrim should not produce a significant change in your frame rates and performance. Due to the liberal use of occlusion planes in the mod, the game will not render anything on the opposite side of the city walls in any given location. So your viewing content will be limited to roughly what you'd see if you were in the closed city worldspaces. The closed city worldspace system was NOT devised by Bethesda to improve frame rates. It was devised to conserve system memory on the XBox 360 and PS3. You're playing on a PC. Or, at least legally speaking you ought to be anyway.

Anyone who insists that this mod is a framerate destroyer is already experiencing other problems with their game. Do keep in mind, Skyrim is not one of those silly shooters that requires 60fps at all times in order to be playable. Dropping from 60 to 55 would go absolutely unnoticed. Even playing with 30-40 frames would go unnoticed to those folks who keep those dumb little indicators running while they play.

If you're seeing a massive frame rate drop, point the finger somewhere else. This mod is absolutely not the cause of your problems. I know this may seem harsh, but this sort of disinformation was rampant with the Oblivion mod and wasn't true then either and I absolutely will not stand for this sort of disinformation being spread now either.


Throttlekitty - Help with the Riften city gate collision sizing.
BassEX - Corrections made to the Markarth dam mesh.
Hannaise - Oblivion Gates in Skyrim
jonwd7 - Fixing the collision on 6 Whiterun wall pieces without normal collision height.
pihwht@Nexus - For having the patience and dedication to dig deep into the civil war and ferret out problems causing it to fail in Solitude.
Dwip - For numerous improved meshes at the various city gates. No more crappy fake collisions!
nonoodles - Riften southeast gate mesh plus the animated dock gates.
Nico coiN - Cut back version of the Whiterun drawbridge mesh as well as numerous other cleanups and fixes for the mod.


This mod is not made, guaranteed, or supported by Microsoft, Zenimax, Bethesda Game Studios, or any of their affiliates.

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Yesterday I installed most of your mods for Skyrim Special Edition.

Aside from yours, and USSEP, I also had the Campfire mod.

When riding into Whiterun, with my newly aqcuired horse, all was 'fine', until riding up to the palace.

The door was missing, blocked off.

I left the city, with my horse, re-entered without, had to walk in a building to 'load', and back out to see the palace properly.

Of note, this did not happen the first time when entering without the horse.

Ive currently uninstalled all mods to figure out various issues Ive seen.

Thank you for your time - it indeed does add to the immersion - thank you!

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After I saw the kerfluffle on Nexus, I installed USSEP, OCS and ASLAL. I started in Riverwood, waited 25 hours, and started going to walled cities. Here is my bug report for Open Cities Skyrim:


I encountered no bugs with Open Cities Skyrim.


I did have a CTD when leaving Windhelm by cart, but it did not repeat when I tried again. No way to tell what caused it. It was the first crash I've had with SSE.  But other than that, I saw none of the supposed issues. All NPCs were in their normal starting locations. The Solitude execution scene played fine. My fps crashed a couple times from 60 to... 55. Usually the first time entering a gate. But nothing at all after that (in the old game I would have a pretty good dip if I looked back through an open gate, but even then it was momentary). I get dips now and then anyway, I think when my VRAM maxes out, which it does from time to time.


I've seen an awful lot of comments along the lines of, "I installed the mod, then disabled it, then enabled it again, etc." Absolutely no awareness. Not just console people either. People are wrecking their games right and left. Or they have driver or other system issues. Who knows? Anyway, fine work. 

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A small issue to report :


When entering Markarth for the 1st time you see a murder scene. With OCS installed the murderer is alone, speaks alone, doesn't kill the victim (of course), then attacks the near stand keeper, then triggers the guards counter-attacks and die. Then the victim pops out (probably by using the hidden doors that connect OCS to the 'regular cities') and greets me for saving her...  :lmao:


I don't know if it's an OCS or a new engine related issue. I must admit that I didn't use OCS very much on the 'old' Skyrim, I just tried it a few hours for fun...  :whistle: I however remember about a few similar glitches.


I have the feeling you designed OCS as able to being installed on a current playthrough, justifying all the 'connection' stuff & process (hidden doors + at least 24 hours waiting for NPCs AI updates). But would it be possible to design it so as all theses inconvenient (broken scenes among few others) are repaired ? I guess it would probably require a brand new game start, a significant and consequent update to all NPCs various placing markers, their attached properties and scripts, and same thing for most of the CW related quests.


I think I know the answer but hey, I need to hear it from your mouth, Arthmoor...  :innocent: (with a few elaborated details if possible). Please don't take it as a bashing comment, but If OCS was 100% flawless I would have adopted it since long... :)

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That looks similar to an issue I once had in Riften when using corrupted mods due to the old TESVsnip in which I had no idea I used mods edited in TESVsnip back then.


I think Arthmoor remember the issue I got before I realized what was wrong in my game.


IIRC The worldspace for the quest I was doing at that time used the vanilla worldspace when OCS were active in my loadorder, while OCS normally are using the Tamriel worldspace without corrupted or damaged mods.

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In my test I went to all cities after waiting 24 hours. All NPCs were in normal places, no one used the AI doors, nothing weird went on. However, I just did a Companions LAL start with OCS active and forgot to wait 24 hours. All the weirdness people have been reporting occurred. It sent me to the closed cell to spar with Vilkas, npc's were travelling back and forth between the cells, etc.


I restarted and waited 24 hours inside Jorrvaskr before going out to spar. Everything was fine then, except for one minor issue. Vilkas did not use his shield and took a small amount of damage (I have a save file for this). When I started another game without OCS, he used his shield and took no damage just like vanilla. There is a task in the bugtracker about this, added back in July, it looks like.  It supposedly can happen in vanilla at high difficulty, but I've never tested that. But I was able to complete the sparring, he did not turn hostile. When I did it the first time, when I didn't wait 24 hours, everyone turned hostile.


tl;dr: the 24 hour wait is MANDATORY. If you Alternate Start in an Open City, you must first wait 24 hours before going outside (you'll start in an inn, house, or guild hall). Or wackiness ensues.

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tl;dr: the 24 hour wait is MANDATORY. If you Alternate Start in an Open City, you must first wait 24 hours before going outside (you'll start in an inn, house, or guild hall). Or wackiness ensues.

Did you wait indoors exactly 24 hours in-game time frame e.g 7:00 AM to 7:00 AM?



EDIT:  Why I ask is because I too have seen weird things like Jon Battle-Born is just standing in front of Belethor's shop 24 hours and never move a leg or a finger.

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Nico, as you can probably imagine, I've put the mod through multiple extensive tests to ferret out issues with things like that. The Markarth attack scene, the Solitude execution scene, the one where Idolaf and Adrianna are talking about ordering weapons for the legion in Whiterun, Mjoll and Aerin in Riften, etc. They all work flawlessly for me.


The mod even works 100% flawlessly for me if I pick a house start in a city and walk out immediately. The NPCs are out and about doing what they should be doing and it looks like everything is in its proper place. I've never had any reason to suspect issues before.


Usually more than 90% of a city's occupants begin the game indoors, so when they leave to go to their places, they'll be exiting into the open city just like you would. Guards should even be starting in the open cities because all their spawn markers have been relocated. The remainder who start outdoors all got relocated to open city spaces so it shouldn't be an issue even for them since the game handles most things by the editor locations.


It could very well be that SSE has done something stupid and the 24 hour in-game wait period is necessary even on a new game, but I have not seen this be the case in my own tests yet. Yes, the mod is also designed to be installed midway through a game and the NPCs have never had any trouble with that either.

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Well, perhaps it's working for you, but for me nope it doesn't work.  Before I continue, I manage to fix the issue I mention in my previous post about a standing Jon Battle-Born just outside of Belethor's shop.


This is what I did.  First, I make a normal save then I uninstalled OCS and waited for 24 hours before making another normal save then I fast travel to Whiterun.  Everything was back to normal.


After that I fast travel to High Hrothgar and waited indoors for more than 24 hours after I re-installed OCS.  I returned to Whiterun as soon as I could just to see what happens and notice these things I mention below.


Doing that actually fixed the issue I had with Jon Battle-Born, however, other things like the dialogue for Ysolda about she is trying to learn more about trading doesn't show up in-game, unless a skill level for the Speech skill is required (I doubt there is but not sure?), which in vanilla triggers the misc quest about obtaining a Mammoth Tusk to give her. 


I also notice the scene with Adrianna talking about ordering weapons, but she is talking to no one and she is alone at the forge.  So weird things happen with OCS in SSE and I make it sure I waited for at least 24 hours.


However, I tought everything was working as intended, but since I waited indoors in High Hrothgar for 24 hours I think there might an issue with OCS that somehow affects Arngeir.


After I returned to High Hrothgar to find Arngeir just to get another radiant word of power quest from him, he is gone and I have been looking for him multiplied times without finding him anywhere.


Arngeir is definitely MIA and I suspect he hasn't transferred to the correct worldspace yet, otherwise I should being able to find him somewhere in High Hrothgar.

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Leo. None of that is the result of problems with OCS. You're seeing AI delays that are old random bugs leftover from Patch 1.9 on Classic Skyrim. Shroob has mentioned them before. They cause oddities like Idolaf not showing up for his scene on time and such. He thinks they may have made some of that worse and it may be related to why consoles have NPCs getting flung all over the map even without mods.


Also, your save is broken if you uninstalled OCS and then put it back. Nothing can fix it now.

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I see.  I didn't know about the random bugs leftover from the original Skyrim.  Well, I still have that save before I starting this, so perhaps my game isn't broken after all.




EDIT:  I thought I could continue, but hell no my game is a complete mess so I decided to toss out everything and start over after the first game patch is released.

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Arthmoor, I've only tried this one city start with ocs active, but I definitely had strange behavior in Whiterun when I didn't immediately wait 24 hours. I did that twice, and waited twice (new game each time, of course). Waiting fixed everything, except that one odd difference with vilkas sparring. One example, when I didn't wait, I could not reenter jorrvaskr in the open cell, I had to go to the closed cell. And half the npcs in the city were going back and forth through the AI door. I only had LAL and USSEP along with OCS. I'll test it with other city starts when i can. In the old game i was able to add it mid game without issues like this.

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When putting my snout in OCS I saw that the city lighting system works almost flawlessly but is totally unimplemented in Windhelm. Is it intended ? Some argument like ' Windhelm is an extremely cold place and fires should remain lit ON 24/24 ' ?

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Yeah, pretty sure I left those on for Windhelm because the beggar uses them to warm her hands so it would have looked dumb to do that with no fire lit.

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I think I figured out the weirdness. I caught up on various threads the other day and learned two things about which I was previously unaware.


1. Don't clean your masters yet.

2. Do not use the in-game mod sorter under any circumstances.


Guess which two things I had already done?  Anyway, I restored my masters from backup and confirmed them. Then uninstalled all 3 mods and reinstalled them with NMM. I just ran two quick tests with old and new Skyrim, with OCS and with the LAL Companions start. Both without waiting for 1 hour. I did not see any of the issues I saw before. None of the NPCs used the AI doors, everything looked normal. Now, I only ran this one test. I doubt most people who've reported things cleaned their masters, but I'd bet they all used the in-game mod organizer.

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1. Don't clean your masters yet.

2. Do not use the in-game mod sorter under any circumstances.

I haven't clean the masters yet and I'll wait for another game patch, but I also want to wait for another update for SSEEdit before I clean the masters.


When I became aware of the loadorder bug and got Sharlikran's Wrye Bash 307.26 SSE build installed.  I decided not to touch the in-game mod sorter, instead I always exit Skyrim and manually sort my loadorder in WB then I rebuild the bashed patch.  Which have worked so far even I use the Mods option in the game menu just to check for updates and new mods.

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Arthmoor, MA for Return to Helgen claims Open Cities will not work with Return to Helgen or any of his other mods. My daughter tested the theory tonight with a new game (level 1). We had both LaL and Open Cities installed along with Return to Helgen. LaL and Open Cities are at the bottom of the Load Order (will list exact order if you need it) and Return to Helgen was in the load order a few slots above both of those. My daughter went to Helgen first (so as not to break things with LAL) and then to Solitude. Door opened fine and the executioner scene played out normally however the pop-up stating Helgen had been rebuilt never came up and when she went back to Helgen nothing was changed. So it seems the MA is right. This may be expected, from your perspective and maybe nothing can be done to make the two compatible but I wanted to check in with you.

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Yes, well, the particular MA in question here has a colorful history of being... an ass... and has essentially excommunicated himself from the rest of the community. So most of us pay little if any attention to his complaints. He's actively hostile toward the idea of any sort of compatibility fixes and steadfastly refuses to bend on even trying to make his mods play nice with anyone else's work at all.


So under normal circumstances, yes, it could get worked out rather easily, but in this case, nope, there's nothing to be done about it unless he's willing to do the uber-simple thing and just make his mod compatible with others. It would literally take him all of 5 minutes to do and he wouldn't even need it to generate a patch esp.

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Yes, well, the particular MA in question here has a colorful history of being... an ass... and has essentially excommunicated himself from the rest of the community. So most of us pay little if any attention to his complaints. He's actively hostile toward the idea of any sort of compatibility fixes and steadfastly refuses to bend on even trying to make his mods play nice with anyone else's work at all.


So under normal circumstances, yes, it could get worked out rather easily, but in this case, nope, there's nothing to be done about it unless he's willing to do the uber-simple thing and just make his mod compatible with others. It would literally take him all of 5 minutes to do and he wouldn't even need it to generate a patch esp.


Ok, thanks. I'll try and ask him about it but if your right, it prob won't go anywhere. Too bad. If he's willing I'll come back to you and see what needs to be done.

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Hi Arthmoor. I got you pm in nexus and read all information on the link you gave me. But I must have missed the answer. I am not the sharpest cookie in the box. Can I bug you for a question?

If so, to make a patch for open cities and populated cities, do I make your mod and the populated mod masters, then load them up in ck, then place any,objects used by populated such as npcs and xmarkers again in the cities? So basically redo any changes that populated did to cities?

Any help,appreciated.

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Excellent article and well written too. :bigcookie:


Even I, who is just a newbie when it comes to modding, understand how it works in theory well the most of it.


I think you could teach Bethesda a thing or two about advanced modding techniques without producing unnecessary bugs in a game(s).

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That article isn't just for detection though. It lays out detailed information on how you can support it without making patches.


If you would prefer to make patches though, yes, you'd need to make both mods that need it into ESMs temporarily, do the work to duplicate whatever needs it, set up alternate AI etc, and then turn the mods back into ESPs when everything is done.


The amount of work you need to put in will be the same either way, which is why the methods in that article exist. At least it would then save some slots for people.

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I studied the article some more. Lets say I follow it and my mod detects that open cities is installed.  Doesnt your mot still need to be a master to the populated mod in order to place npcs inside a open city?  This is the part that confuses me.   I fully understand how it detects open city being installed.  But then what?  If the mod I am supporting just injects npcs here and there inside whiterun, can I place them inside whiterun and your mod will be ok with no patch?  But then why is detection needed i fthere is no special procedure required?  I am going in circles I know. 

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