Modder adds the one thing Skyrim has always been missing: Crippling psychological stress

A Nord in a state of distress.
(Image credit: JaySerpa / Bethesda)

Skyrim bills itself as a fantasy RPG: A sprawling adventure in which you treat with gods and write your name into myth and legend. But it's not that, really. For most of us, it's a life sim. A way to live out a new existence as some kind of itinerant lizardman. Sure, you probably still rack up a kill count in the thousands, but I think the majority of players like Skyrim because it provides a space to exist in and explore, rather than for the grandeur of its main plot.

But if the game is truly going to accurately depict a fantasy take on real life, it needs one of real life's most omnipresent features: Intense, mind-bending anxiety. Thank god for modders like JaySerpa, then, whose mod Stress and Fear – A Dynamic Sanity System (via DSOGaming) promises to turn your Dragonborn into the quivering nervous wreck they were always born to be. Relatable!

Per the description, Stress and Fear adds a "very simple and lite stress/fear system" atop the basic Skyrim we all know and love. It's not hard to understand. As you take hits in combat, your stress will increase. As stress increases, your stamina and magicka go down, reflecting the mental toll all that slashing, stabbing, and piercing is taking on your psyche. Getting badly hurt can bring on a full CK3-style mental break, potentially giving you a phobia of whatever beast brought you to harm. That phobia constricts your visions and quickens your breathing while fighting that monster, and you do 25% less damage.

All of which sounds perfectly dreadful, but fear not, there's an upside. For one thing, you can decrease your stress through all manner of activities. For instance, drinking skooma, eating comfort food like sweetrolls, taking a bath, petting an animal, and getting royally trashed, among others.

You can also overcome those phobias, which entails both a big stress reduction, prevents you from developing the phobia again, and gives you a permanent 10% damage boost against whichever creature you were scared of. Which is also realistic. As someone who used to get nervous about getting my hair cut as a child, I now do 10% more damage to hairdressers.

It's a lightweight mod but a pretty cool idea, and tips its hat to its most obvious inspiration: Darkest Dungeon. If you're interested in placing your Skyrim character beneath the weight of a crushing mental burden, you can download it over on Nexus.

Joshua Wolens
News Writer

One of Josh's first memories is of playing Quake 2 on the family computer when he was much too young to be doing that, and he's been irreparably game-brained ever since. His writing has been featured in Vice, Fanbyte, and the Financial Times. He'll play pretty much anything, and has written far too much on everything from visual novels to Assassin's Creed. His most profound loves are for CRPGs, immersive sims, and any game whose ambition outstrips its budget. He thinks you're all far too mean about Deus Ex: Invisible War.