Running Skyrim using SteamPlay is easy enough, but getting a simple mod manager to work in a non-Windows environment involves a lot more suffering than is ideal. In light of this, I’m making this guide to help others get their mods up and running as fast as possible on their funny penguin OS distro while avoiding the pitfalls I suffered through.
If you’re inclined to click off and give running a mod manager without Lutris a try, I invite you to skim through Section 2.1 of the guide to see why, like me, you’re not gonna have a good time trying that.
Lutris is one of a few open-source gaming platforms for GNU/Linux that intends to take the work out of running games on the operating system. For our purposes, we’ll find it conveniently has runners for the mod managing tools we want to use. Installing Lutris will be as simple as nabbing it from the Community repository available to all distributions using your package manager of choice. If you don’t have WINE installed already, it should be now automatically as a dependency for Lutris.
sudo apt install lutris
sudo dnf install lutris
sudo pacman -S lutris
Look here for other distributions. Having installed Lutris, we can move on to installing our modding tools.
Installing Your Mod Manager
If like me you’ve grown accustomed to Mod Organizer 2 or another mod manager, you have my sympathies. You’re welcome to try and make something else work, though I advise you read why my attempts to work with MO2 and MO failed before you potentially waste your time. Feel free to skip ahead to Installing Vortex with Lutris if you don’t care.
Why you probably can’t use Mod Organizer or NMM
While, yes, there are Lutris runners for Mod Organizer 2 and it will run, the issue that ultimately arises is that MO2 and its predecessor MO don’t let your mods actually deploy unless you run the game through them. On Windows, this works fine, but since on Linux you’re using SteamPlay to run the game executable, there isn’t any way I managed to find to have it launch your game executable run and force Proton compatibility outside of the Steam client.
Mod Organizer and MO2 both also work just using pure WINE, but these same issues of deployment arise nonetheless.
As for NMM Community Edition… I couldn’t get it to run with WINE.
… Moving on.
Regardless of all this, there are benefits of using Vortex. Yes, your window manager will probably cut off the top of the UI, but it does have LOOT implementation for sorting your load order if you aren’t big on doing that manually. That last part is especially handy since although you can install and run LOOT with WINE, the UI doesn’t seem to play well and just renders as a black window, so having its functionality embedded in Vortex is really fortunate for our circumstances.
Installing Vortex with Lutris
Having installed Lutris, downloading and running Vortex is as simple as running the install script from here. Alternatively, you can download the script from GitHub and install it from your terminal with:
lutris -i /vortex.yml
The graphical installer should be able to lead you from here, be sure to pay attention to the instructions that appear after Lutris has downloaded your .NET junk and Corefonts. Once you have a Vortex instance up and running, I recommend you close it to finalize your installation and proceed to configuration.
For Vortex to be able to manage and deploy your mods, it’ll need to know where your game is installed. This can be a little unintuitive with how Lutris decides to create a whole Windows directory structure for each individual program you run with it, and that your game files are likely to be in a whole other location than Vortex even knows how to get to.
The cleanest way we can point Vortex in the right direction without having to move any of your files is using symbolic links, which are functionally similar to shortcuts in Windows. This process may be different depending on your file manager of choice, so if you know what you’re doing there go ahead and create a symlink to your Steam or steamapps directory and slap it in your Vortex install’s program files (where you’d find it on Windows.)
Doing all of this in your terminal can be achieved by doing:
ln -s ~/.local/share/Steam/ mv Steam /drive_c/Program\ Files\ (x86)/
While yes, we could simply point Vortex to where your actual Skyrim folder is, I personally find this method to feel the cleanest and also happens to be the only way to make Vortex work if you have it and Skyrim on different disks.
You’ll also need to make sure your Vortex drive_c has a symlink to your home Documents directory since it complains if it can’t find your SkyrimPrefs.ini.
cd /drive_c/users/ && rmdir My\ Documents ln -s ~/Documents && mv Documents My\ Documents
You should now need only launch Vortex again and pick Skyrim from the Games → Discovered tab, at which point you’ll have a more or less regular Vortex modding experience.
And that's all for this The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim guide. Do you have any suggestions or tips to improve this guide for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim? If yes, then make sure to leave a comment down below. This guide has been made possible by Elivir. You can check him out by simply clicking his name.