Load Ordering

...from "Finishing the Installation" go to paragraph II...

What is a load order?

    A load order is the "date modified" ordering of your the plugins that are processed in the game from earliest to most recent, the order in which content is processed by the game engine.  Active plugins are plugins loaded into the game.  Only plugins in your Data folder can be active, but not all plugins in the Data folder have to be active.  You can activate and deactivate plugins using any mod managing utility (i.e., Wrye Bash, OBMM, the Oblivion Launcher, etc.)  Wrye Bash give the users the most control over managing load orders.  With it, users can do anything that the other mod managing utilities allow and much, much more.  However, OBMM, over many other mod managers, also supports modifying the load order through its interface.  Use ONE utility to manager your load order, in order to avoid unnecessary trouble.  If OBMM users use Wrye Bash to modify their load order, turn on the setting in OBMM that keeps it from modifying the load order (except for when adding plugins because that is inevitable.)  The best plugin ordering utility, however, is Better Oblivion Sorting Software (BOSS).  That utility that automates the ordering of a large number of plugins is discussed in the next subsection, but users should still have some understanding of why BOSS' and correct load order have the organization that they have.

    Wrye Bash has increased number of states in which a plugin can exist in the data folder, from two, active and not active (deactivated) to four, active, merged, imported and deactivated.  Only active plugins are loaded by the game engine.  There are two types of "merged" that Oblivion users may encounter.  One usage is for a plugin that is a merger of multiple plugins.  It literally contains copies of the records found in the separate plugins.  "Merged" with respect to Wrye Bash, means that a plugin is virtually-active.  On one hand, in both cases, the plugins' content are merged into another plugin (in the Wrye Bash case, the merged plugin being the bashed patch); however, in the case of a real merge, the individual plugins can (and should) be removed afterward.  Their content has literally been assimilated in to the merger plugin.  In the case of the bashed patch, the merged mods have become something akin to invisible master.  The game does not see them as active, but the bashed patch depends on their contents, so they must remain in the data folder.  Imported plugins are likewise pseudo-active, their contents copied into the bashed patch.  The biggest difference between bashed patches and normal merged mods are that bashed patches have complex rules by which they incorporate mods content.  That is wherein lies the difference between the two different pseudo-active states (imported and merged.)  The incorporation of content into the bashed patch is still load order sensitive, so that is yet another reason why merged and imported plugins are pseudo-active.  Because their content is loaded into the bashed patch, there is rarely a reason to leave them active.  It would practically be as though their content would be loaded twice, which can cause enough issues by itself.  Lastly, the content of deactivated plugins is not brought into the game at all; however, they still count toward the soft cap of 300 to 400 total plugins and BSAs.  Unless you are using multiple profiles for which you use different sets of plugin and have a bashed patch for each set, remove deactivated plugins from your load order.  They only waste space.  The more plugins in the data folder, especially active plugins, the more unstable Oblivion becomes.

    Now for the actual load order rules...Oblivion.esm should ALWAYS be first in that list.  It is the master file of almost all Oblivion plugins.  That means that most plugins depend on it in some way or another, and, therefor, must load after it.  ESMs, "hard-coded" master files, load first, regardless of whether or not ESPs "fall between" their  spots, time-wise.  However, that does not mean that you can leave the ESM floating after the ESP and expect everything to work out.  One of the details that many people miss is the fact that active plugins in the load order are each assigned a hex number up to FF (255.)  If the ESM is 03, and the ESP is 02, but the ESM is loaded at the position of 02, problems will occur.  Similarly, if you esmify an ESP (make it appear as a master file even though it has the .esp extension) and forget to espify the plugin before loading the game, it will be loaded with the ESMs.  (The load order is a list.  There is only one spot after the ESMs where it could possible be okay for that to happen; otherwise, the ESP is forced to load too early.)

    The other general load order rule is plugin dependency.  Plugins must load after their masters (which is the most obvious reason why plugins have to load after Oblivion.esm.)  Plugins can have multiple masters, and they can be ESMs or ESPs.  ESMs, for the aforementioned reasons, can only depend on other ESMs.  These are explicit dependencies, but there are also implicit dependencies.  For examples, some of the UL mods only depend on a plugin from the UL mod or the other mod it patches, instead of having an explicit dependency on both mods.  Worldspace and cell editing mods are not the only mods with implicit dependencies, but they are the most likely to have patches with that kind of dependency.

    In conclusion, load ordering is about which mod breaks which other mods, and what groupings help avoid the breaks with the fewest exceptions.  Unless a mod is fairly dirty or an unusual compilation, it should fit into one of the general categories.  If you really want to learn more about the specific categories, exceptions and how they are arranged, browse the BOSS masterlist (online).  See the mod managing utilties' (i.e., OBMM's and Wrye Bash's) ReadMes or their individual guides on this site to learn how to manually rearrange your load order.

    Fortunately, there is now a wonderful load ordering tool that can organize most of your load order for you, Better Oblivion Sorting software (BOSS).  It does not recognize all plugins, so you may still have to do some tweaking.  Of course, you will have to do that for custom-made plugins as well.  Alternatively, if you add the unknown plugins to your copy of the masterlist in the position you want, BOSS can then organize them for you.  That way, you will not have to move them again after rerunning BOSS.  An even more efficient alternative is to use the BOSS Masterlist Manager (BOMM).  BOMM not only automatically updates the masterlist by pulling the newest version from the web, but also its main purpose is to allow the user to define overrides in a DOC file that it will automatically apply to the masterlist.  Once you have these utilities, you will not have to bother about many of the more boring details of load ordering ever again.

LO Template  - based off the BOSS masterlist...

  1. Oblivion.esm
  2. ESMs (see ReadMes)
  3. Early-Loading Mods (see ReadMes)
    1. NPC Faces
    2. Vanilla Fixes - miscellaneous fixes, UOP, etc.
    3. SI - miscellaneous fixes, USIP, etc.
    4. Fran files for FCOM
      1. Base Mods - library mods, new content mods, etc.
      2. Environmental Mods - weather, water tweaks, sound, lighting
      3. Mods that can be overwritten or add new content
      4. UI mods - Map Marker tweaks, Hotkey mods
    5. DLCs I - Horse Armor, Orrery, Vile Lair, Mehrunes, Spell Tomes
    6. Body replacers
  4. Items
    1. Early loaders (see ReadMes)
    2. New items
    3. Armor and clothing replacers for body replacers
  5. Pre Overhaul (see ReadMes)
    1. Mods with specific conflicts
    2. Mods that change names (that can use the Import Names Bash tag)
    3. DLCs II - Thieves Den
  6. Overhauls (See ReadMes for specific load ordering information)
    1. Fran options
    2. FCOM and OOO support mods
    3. OOO
    4. MMM & FCOM (main)
    5. MMM & FCOM options (must see ReadMes for specific load ordering info)
    6. Other overhaul-compatible mods
    7. Overhaul immediate override patches
  7. Post Overhaul (see ReadMes)
  8. Quests and Locations
  9. FCOM quest compatibility patches
  10. More quests  (See ReadMes)
  11. Landscape and City aesthetics
    1. Unique Landscapes
    2. Mods that have to load after ULs and before city overhaul mods
    3. Open Cities
    4. Quests that have to load after OC and ULs
    5. Overrides
      1. Harvest Flora
      2. Other visual improvements (i.e., Better XX)
      3. Realism
      4. Vampires
      5. Magic
      6. Combat
      7. Skills, Attributes and Leveling
      8. Poses and animations
      9. Late loading overrides - darkening mods, Item Interchange
      10. Cosmetic mods and race rebalancers
      11. Companions
      12. Post BC and OBC
      13. Message suppression
      14. Respawn & Day length overrides (most made obsolete by bashed patch)
      15. Shader mods
  12. Pre Bash  (See ReadMes)
  13. Bashed Patch
  14. Post Bash (See ReadMes)
    1. Most Duke Patrick mods
    2. Last Files
      1. Land Magic
      2. Map changing mods
      3. Stability mods (scripts) - FormID Finder, Kuertee Actor Details, Clean up, Clean quit, OGE Support, Streamline (last)

Useful Utilities

        Better Oblivion Sorting Software (BOSS) automatically orders more than 10000 plugins, and it will save the user a ton of work when it comes time to perfect an load order.  Its companions BOMM facilitates the addition of your own definitions to your local BOSS masterlist.  It will update the masterlist by downloading the latest updates from the web and reapply your overrides to the latest version as well.  No longer will you have to grieve over needing to re-tweak your masterlist after an update.  BOMM takes care of all of that for you.
  1. Recommended Utilities:
  2. Install BOSS:
    1. Move the main BOSS archive to the Oblivion\Data folder
    2. Choose "7-zip">"extract here"

  3. Install BOMM: 
    1. Create a folder in your documents folder for Microsoft Word macros, and drop the BOMM archive in it.
    2. Extract the BOMM archive there
    3. Open the BOMM file
    4. At the top, the very first line, correct the path to your masterlist.txt file (located in your Data folder.)
    5. Create a shortcut to the BOMM file:
      1. Right-clicking on and choose copy
      2. Right-click on the desktop or quick launch bar and choose "paste shortcut"
      3. Before completing the configuration, copy the path to your BOMM file (not including the file name itself, just to the folder)
      4. Scroll down to the "Installation" section in order to configure Microsoft Word for your BOMM configuration.
    6. Close BOMM

  1. (Wrye Bash) Turn off Lock Times:  Right-click on the File tab and uncheck lock times.
    >> notes:  Turn Lock Times back on afterward so that you do not have to worry about stray modifications of your load order.  It can also be useful to run BOSS before turning off Lock Times to see what changes it would make, in the even that you have already made some changes you may want to preserve.  (That is not necessary, of course, if you are using BOMM.)
  2. Run BOSS (a shortcut with a green "BOSS" is along the bottom of Bash's window)
  3. Read the BOSS LOG:  After running BOSS, the BOSS LOG popped up.  The BOSS LOG file contains lots of compatibility information and other info making it worth every minute it takes to read through it, thoroughly.
  4. Do you have unrecognized files?  (at the bottom of the log file)  If so, leave the log file open and keep reading, else close the log file and you can skip to "Bash Tags."  BOSS recognizes over 8000 plugins but there are many more plugins available on the net.
    >> note: If BOSS does not work (i.e., the log file does not open), go post about the problem in the BOSS thread on the BethSoft forum. The BOSS LOG file is located in the Data folder if you need to double-check.
  5. If you want to have your unrecognized plugins to the BOSS master list, you need to post them in BOSS's BethSoft thread:
    • Do not just past a bunch of unrecognized plugins in your post.
    • Add links for each plugin to its mod page from wherever
    • It is even better if you have some insight on where the mod should be placed in the masterlist
    • It is even more helpful if you can give information on compatibility issues or Bash tag suggestions, if applicable
Excerpt from first post of current BOSS thread 04/03/2010

Won't run: Using BOSS version under 1.51:
Update to version 1.51

Won't run: BOSS not extracted (unzipped) to ...\oblivion\data but a sub-folder or the Oblivion folder.

All BOSS files must share the same folder as your mods.

Check you have:
  • BOSS.exe
  • BOSS.bat
  • masterlist.txt
in your ...\oblivion\data folder.

Won't change load order: OS is Vista and Oblivion is installed in Program Files.

Install Oblivion outside the Program Files folder where possible. Otherwise temporarily deactivate UAC.

Won't Change load order and generating a blank text file: OS is Windows 7:

Give group or users name: BATCH controls of the Oblivion folder

Won't change load order: Wrye Bash's load order locking feature is enabled.

Disable before changing load order.

A text box flashes up but disappears.

Run BOSS.bat not BOSS.exe

  1. Find and launch the shortcut for the BOSS Masterlist Manager (BOMM) you made ages ago.
  2. Once it loads, click "Run BOMM."
  3. When it finishes, you will see it populated the section under the third green header with you unrecognized mods.
  4. To define these in your master list:
    1. In the second (unrecognized definitions) section, copy and paste each unrecognized mod in a row.
    2. Now you have to decide which mods to load each plugin after.  The best way to do this is to open up the BOSS masterlist file (in the Data folder) and look through it to find similar mods.
    3. Choose a plugin to load it after, copy the name, and paste it in the right column next to the relevant plugin.
      >> notes:  a plugin can be designated to load after another unknown, just make sure its definition is declared after the one it needs to load after
  5. After defining all of your unknowns, choose "Run BOMM" again.  It should prompt you with each plugins name if they were defined properly.
    >> notes:  scroll down to the last couple of pages for more instructions about definitions
  6. You can also define overrides in the first section to override definitions in the original masterlist.  For example:
             \BeginGroup\: Supreme Magicka    \BeginGroup\: L.A.M.E.
    --moves the SM group after LAME
  7. After adding all of you definitions, choose "Run BOSS."  (scroll to the bottom and see the empty unrecognized list)
  8. Click "Run BOMM" again after BOSS finishes runing.  Now, looking at the third section, BOMM has removed all of the newly defined plugins.
    >> notes:  If the BOSS Log or original masterlist is not updated the unrecognized plugins will not be removed from the bottom list, so you should re-run BOSS after adding definitions.  Then run BOMM again with the updated log file.
  9. Close BOMM.