Fantasy
Skyrim Special Edition: Making a Custom NPC Follower

Skyrim Special Edition: Making a Custom NPC Follower

When I went back to play Skyrim in my current Fantasy obsession (aka trying to rewrite my first novels and make them better) I knew I had to recreate my characters as followers in the game.

I used other vanilla NPCs or followers made by other modders (you are awesome, BTW), but I knew they weren’t 100% my folk as I imagined them, and since they’ve been with me for so long that I now considered them a part of my family, I just had to do them myself.

So I started to look around for tutorials and guides and fixes to start my journey in the worlds of mods.

And boyyyy was it hard. I searched left and right, found a lot of useful resources, but also struggled to keep up because for a reason or another, things didn’t work or pieces were missing, or I had to follow hours and hours of videos with a lot of info I didn’t need just to get to what I needed. I almost cried, I actually didn’t, since I’m a grown woman, but in the end, I managed to get what I wanted.

So I thought to write down this quick and I hope easy to follow sort-of-tutorial of what I do and what works for me.

Here’s what we’ll be doing: a semi-standalone NPC with the custom face I make with the advanced racemenu (more on that later), that can be used as a follower or spouse or both.

Also you can use part of this tutorial if you just feel the need to change the face of some vanilla NPCs that you don’t like very much.

I won’t go too deep into detail with meshes and textures because I still have to figure out that part, but basically if you use the racemenu mod and a few other mods that make your NPCs look pretty, your character will look pretty too, without much of sculpting and adding extra stuff.

But enough talk, let’s go to the real stuff.

What do we need?

  • Skyrim Special Edition
  • A mod manager (I use Vortex, but you can choose what you like)
  • A bunch of mods, if you feel fancy (mostly optional):
    • Racemenu (it gives you additional sliders to customize your character, but you can stick to the vanilla version if you want)
    • Beards and Brows retextures, and basically whatever you like to make your NPC as you intend to
  • Bethesda Creation Kit (very important! You can find it on the Bethesta website after you log in with your account)
  • NifScope
  • Nif Optimizer
  • NPC Nif Merge (don’t worry if it’s for Skyrim LE we’ll see later)

Seems a lot of stuff, but you’ll get around this if you follow my steps. I’ll do my best to make it clear.

WARNING: this method only works with the vanilla meshes or Expressive Facegen Morphs and similar mods that just slightly alter the vanilla face. It DOES NOT WORK with High Poly Head, COTR or similar mods that change the head mesh (I can’t help you there, sorry :P) .

Let’s get started, I’ll do this with you and create my NPC follower Owen, while I type this tutorial.

Step 1: Prepare your Character

You can do this two ways:

Start a new game (if you want to skip all the Helgen stuff and get to the character creation quickly I recommend this mod: Alternate start)

or

– Open an existing game and access the racemenu

To get the racemenu in game you just have to open the console with the ~ key (or \ depending on your keyboard – basically that key that’s up there to the left to the number 1), then type showracemenu and press enter. (Then press the ~ key again to close the console or nothing will work LOL).

You’ll get to the menu with all the sliders to customize your character’s appearance. Go nuts and make it as pretty or funky or whatever you like.

This is how Owen will look like for me:

To get better facial features I use another mod called “Expressive facegen morphs” – it’s a total game changer 😀

When you are done tweaking and painting, write down a couple of things (take a screenshot or a piece of paper or a txt file, or just keep it in your mind if you have a good memory):

Sex and Race = Male Nord

Height and Weight = 1 –0.65

Hair name (if you use custom hair), you can see the name of the file in the bottom right of your screen when you hover the hair slider. I use KS hair and chose the hairstyle named “Rough Sketch”.

For this simple tutorial I won’t consider extra customization like modded eyes, brows, custom races, etc. (I still have to work on that, maybe another time), but if you have installed some of those retexture mods I mentioned above, you should get some nice results even with just the vanilla assets.

Also I would avoid changing too much of the body, you can install a mod that makes pretty bodies (I use CBBE for women and Tempered Males for men, and I’m happy with how they look) and you’ll be good to go.

Step 2: Save and Export your Preset

When you are satisfied with your character appearance, go to the tab “Sculpt” and press F5 to export the head (you can call it whatever you like, just remember the name – Let’s call it OwenFollower). This is needed only if you use the modded racemenu with the additional sliders. If you use only the vanilla sliders you probably won’t need this and all the .nif files stuff that we will be doing in the next steps.

You can also save the preset of the character in the tab Presets > Save preset. This is another kind of file that will be useful if you want to use the same face in another game save, for example.

Anyway, we are done here and we can close the racemenu. Press R to confirm and the game will ask you to name your character. This will create a new save with the name you choose.

If you want to avoid this, and not having dozens of different save files for every time you want to change the nose or the hairstyle or the freckles on your character face, there is another very useful mod, called A change of Face that allows you to access the racemenu from a book in your inventory. Just know that this way you cannot change the race but only the appearance of the character.

Last step, once you are back in the game, open the console with the ~ key (or \) and type:

SPF [name of your character without spaces] and press enter.

(In my case I will write: SPF OwenFollower).

This will save the appearance of your character in the game folder as an .npc file. We’ll get to this later.

Now you can close the game and jump to the next step.

Step 3: Create your Follower Plugin

Time to open the Creation Kit.

I know, it’s the buggiest thing on the entire planet, be patient. It will give you a ton of warnings (just say yes to all) and will probably crash on you a few times. It’s normal. Just remember to save often.

Click on File > Data… (or on the yellow folder) and double click to select the master file Skyrim.esm – (In some cases you might need to open also other plugins as well, if you need to use assets from other mods or from the DLCs, but I wouldn’t recommend creating too many dependencies with other mods).

Click OK and wait. It will take a while. Yes to all if you get any warnings pop up.

Now you’ll have an “Object Window” on the left of your screen. If it’s not there, you can open it from the menu View > Object Window.

Click on Actors > Actor > Actor and you’ll see a full list of all the NPCs in the game.

Since we are making your follower for the first time, we need to create a new actor.

Right click anywhere on the actors list and select NEW.

You’ll get a new window where you will put all the info about your character.

I’ll just cover the essentials but you can customize it as you please.

First you have to choose an ID and a Name – Make sure to make it easy to recognize and find.

I use the prefix AW for all my mods, and numbers or letters to identify which is which.

I’ll call his ID AWhOwenFollower and name him Owen as name and short name (but you can give him a first and last name if you want, that’s the name you’ll see in game when you point at him).

Then check the boxes to make it Essential (so it won’t get killed by accident) and Unique (there is only one of him in the game).

Choose the race and tick the box if female.

Set height and weight (I left the height at 1, and the weight is 0.65, so I’ll write 65 in the box)

Then choose a voice type. I selected MaleEvenTonedAccented.

A note about the voice: Female (or Male) Even Toned are ok for a follower. There are other voices that are more unique or specific to some characters and cannot be used for follower NPCs because they don’t have the dialogue lines for that, and so the follower won’t work if you don’t give it the right voice.

There is a workaround if you have a follower mod or RDO that can make anyone a follower, so that you can choose any human voice you like. But if you want a marriageable character, there are only a few that have the marriage dialogue lines, so here’s a list of the voices that should work for followers and spouses (here is where I got them):

Voices for followers who can marry and adopt: – Male: Brute, EvenToned, Nord, Orc, YoungEager – Female: Commander, Sultry, YoungEager

Voices for followers who can marry: – Male: Argonian, EvenToned, EvenTonedAccented, DarkElf, Drunk – Female: DarkElf, EvenToned, Orc

Voices for spouses who can adopt: – Male: CommonerAccented, Condescending, SlyCynical – Female: Commoner, Coward, ElfHaughty, Nord

Voices for follower who can adopt: – Female: Condescending

Voices for only followers: – Male: Khajiit

Voices for only spouses: – Male: Commoner, Coward – Female: Argonian, Shrill

Now it’s a good time to save your plugin.

Click ok to close the window and then click on the Save Plugin (Ctrl+S) icon.

It will ask you to name your plugin. I wrote AWhOwen and pressed OK

The file will be saved in your Skyrim Data folder with the name [whateveryoucalledit].esp

Now let’s continue customizing our follower.

STATS

Click again on Actors > Actor > Actor and you’ll now see a new actor with the name you gave him (mine is AWhOwenFollower): double click to open the window again.

Now let’s go to the next tab: Stats.

Here you can choose your follower level. I like to have the follower grow with me, so I select PC Level Mult with Level Mult set to 1.00 (which means the follower will be the same level as me) and set Calc Min to 10 and Calc Max to 100, then I leave everything as it is and just select the Class from the drop-down.

I chose CombatNightblade for Owen because he’s a bit sneaky but also uses magic.

That’s it. Click OK, SAVE, and reopen the actor for the next tab.

FACTIONS

Here is where you decide what your character will do in the game. Since we are creating a follower that can be a marriage partner, here’s what we’ll do:

Right click on the Faction and Ranks table and click NEW.

From the list you can filter for “follower” and select CurrentFollowerFaction. Click OK.

Now from the Faction and Ranks table click twice (or F2) on the column on the left of CurrentFollowerFaction where there is a 0 and type -1.

Then right click again, select New and search for “follower”. This time select PotentialFollowerFaction. Ok. Leave as it is.

If you just want a follower, you’re ok. If you want a marriage partner, right click again. New. Search for “marriage” and select PotentialMarriageFaction. Click OK and you’re done.

Save again and go to the next tab.

AI DATA

We’ll skip relationship and keywords for now, and go to the AI Data tab.

Aggression: you can choose Unaggressive or Aggressive. They are both fine for a follower. If you chose the very aggressive or frenzied options, the NPC will start attacking everyone and you don’t want that.

Confidence: choose what you think best suits your character. I’ll go with brave.

Assistance: here it’s important that you select Help Friends and Allies or the npc will do nothing when you are in the middle of a fight.

Mood: changes the facial expression of the NPC, I’ll stick with neutral.

Morality: Any Crime (sometimes we have to do shady stuff).

I leave everything else to default.

AI PACKAGES

This is a bit too advanced, and usually you don’t need them for a normal follower, but you can assign him some of the default sandbox packages so that when you are in an inn, for example, they will go around, eat, etc. But maybe we’ll look at this another time.

INVENTORY

Now we skip to the Inventory.

You can have fun in choosing your follower equipment, but I like to start from almost nothing and give him weapons and armor as we go, so I’ll just give him something to wear (unless you want a naked follower).

Choose something you like from the Default Outfit drop-down (I’ll just give him some farm clothes).

Then right-click on the Inventory list, click new, and then choose an Object from the drop-down below. It’s a bit of a pain because you have to scroll for hours to find anything (I’ll just give him an Iron Sword and call it a day).

Let’s save again and proceed.

SPELL LIST

If your follower uses magic, you can choose his spells here. As always, right click the list and select New.

Since Owen has some Destruction and Alteration skills, I’ll choose a few spells he can use (here’s a reference guide on spells and perks).

He uses fire magic, so I’ll add Flames and Firebolt. Then a Healing spell so he can cure himself in times of need, and for Alteration just Oak Flesh. I don’t want to make him too overpowered. Also with mods you can teach him more spells while you go on with the game and you both level up.

As for Perks, right click and select “Add” this time. You’ll see a list of all the perks you usually can access from your skill tree. Since I gave him Firebolt, which is an apprentice level spell, I’ll add DestructionNovice00 and DestructionApprentice25 to the list. Another useful perk is LightFoot, so he won’t activate traps stepping on them.

We can also add some Light Armor and One-Handed perks: AgileDefender00, AgileDefender20, Armsman00, and Armsman20. I won’t add perks for a specific weapon so you can give him what weapon you like best.

This is all we need for now. Click OK and save.

Step 4: Change your Follower Appearance

Now we are finally here, to the reason why I decided to write this tutorial. To make my followers look more like I picture them in my mind and less like vanilla potatoes.

First, we go to the Character Gen Parts tab.

Remember all the things we did at the beginning with racemenu? Good, now we have to put it all in here.

Click on the Import button, then select the .npc file we saved with the console. It’s in the Skyrim Special Edition folder and it’s called [name of your character].npc (mine is OwenFollower.npc). Open.

You can see your follower face by clicking on the bottom where it says Preview > Head.

Now it will show a face that looks nothing like the character you created (unless you did it with the default sliders only). Don’t worry about that, it’s ok.

Just check that the eyes, skin and hair colors are the one you choose (and if you changed your npc’s height and weight, go back quickly to the Traits tab to check that everything is in order, because sometimes the height gets reset to 1 when you load the .npc file).

Now if you used vanilla hair to make your character, everything should be already set. If you used modded hair instead (like I did) there are a few extra steps to do, but we’ll see them later.

For now, let’s continue with the vanilla hair.

Again, if you get any warnings, say yes to all.

If everything is set, click OK and give it another Save.

We’ll get back to the rest of the face mesh in a while.

If you made the character with just the vanilla racemenu, you should be good to go right now and no further tweaking is needed, if not, wait a bit while we finish here.

Also remember that if you have installed mods that give a better texture to your NPCs, you’ll see that pretty skin only when you find your follower in the game.

Step 4.5: Adding custom Hairstyles

If you use the vanilla hair already in the game, you can skip this part.

If you want to add custom hair to your character, read on.

First of all, you must have the hair mod you choose already installed and accessible from the racemenu, because you’ll have to export the npc’s head with the exact same hairstyle already applied.

(KS hairdo’s is a great mod and allows you to use the hair in custom followers mods).

Now what you have to do is identify which files are used by that specific hairstyle. Usually you’ll have a hair mesh, a hairline (and some like KS also have the scalp).

Make a folder for the hair textures. You’ll need to place them in the game folder under Data/textures. You can choose any subfolder you like, the important thing is to remember the path to get there.

For example, I place them in Data/textures/actors/character/awh/Owen

To identify which files you need, you can go by name or look into your exported .nif file.

This is when you need to use Nif Scope, which’s a software that makes you open and navigate inside the .nif files. You’ll find the hair textures names expanding the branches until you find 35 BSShaderTextureSet.

You’ll need to look up all 3 parts of the hair: hair name, hair nameHL, and scalp.

We’ll find out that the texture files we need in this case are: rough sketch.dds, rough sketch_n.dds, scalp.dds, and scalp_n.dds.

Now we’ll go look for them in the game Data folder under textures/ks hairdo’s/ and copy the files into our custom folder (awh for me). For convenience, since I use the same folder for multiple followers, I put the scalp files in a subfolder called hairline so I don’t have to copy the same files for every other follower I make.

Now that we have our textures, let’s get back to the Creation kit.

To let the game know which hair to use, we’ll have to create new head parts for our custom hair.

From the Object Window, click on Head Part and right click on the list. Select New.

We have to do this three times.

–  For the scalp:

ID: AWhOwenScalp – Name: Owen scalp – select the gender (male)

Type: Misc – Valid races: HeadPartsAllRacesminusBeast

Click the Edit button near Model to select the .nif file of the scalp.

You can find it in the Data folder under meshes/ks hairdo’s/hairline – now there are two .nif files for the male scalp, one straight and one curly, I’m not 100% sure on which to use, but I think malescalp.nif works ok for this kind of hair. Click ok.

Then tick the box that says “Is Extra Part”, we’ll see why later.

For the hairline:

ID: AWhOwenHL – Name: Owen HL – select the gender (male)

Type: Misc – Valid races: HeadPartsAllRacesminusBeast

Click the Edit button near Model to select the .nif file of the hairline.

Search for the .nif with the name of your hairstyle HL (for me it will be Rough SketchHL.nif), click ok.

Tick again the box that says “Is Extra Part”.

For the actual hair:

ID: AWhOwenHair – Name: Owen Hair – select the gender (male)

Type: Hair (be sure to select hair this time) – Valid races: HeadPartsAllRacesminusBeast

Click the Edit button near Model to select the .nif file of the hair.

Search for the .nif with the name of your hairstyle (for me it will be Rough Sketch.nif), click ok.

Now, in the box below, where it says “Extra part”, right click and select New.

Click on the name of the scalp you created (AWhOwenScalp) and ok.

Then do the same for the hairline (AWhOwenHL). You should see something like the picture below:

Click OK again and now the hard part is done.

Now let’s get back to our NPC ID from the Actor list. Double click to open and go back to the Character Gen Part tab.

In the box Base Head Parts, click on Hair and open the drop-down menu below. You’ll see that now the Hair part we created is on the list. Select the ID and it will be applied to your character in the Preview.

Isn’t this neat? 😀

Click OK. Save. And we are done with the hair. For now.

Step 5: Relationships

At this point, you have created your NPC but you have to let him know what to do when he meets you in the game, so now we have to set our relationships.

Go back to the Object Window and scroll down until you find Character > Relationship.

Right click on the list and select New.

Assign a unique ID (for example AWhOwenRel), chose the ID of your follower as Parent NPC.

Select Player as Child NPC, and set the Relationship Level to Ally.

Click ok and you’re done. Save another time.

Step 6: Add your NPC to the World

Now your NPC is (almost) done and ready. But where is he?

You have to decide where your follower is located so you can meet him in Skyrim.

To do so, go to another of those windows you have on the screen, it’s called “Cell View”. (If you don’t see it or you closed it by mistake, just go to View > Cell View Window).

From the list, select a location of your liking. Preferably some place you know how to find, like Whiterun or another city you can visit. Better if it’s indoor and in a place you can access at any time, so he won’t wander around too much.

Owen is a bit of a rogue, and likes to hang out in Riften, so I’ll place him in the Inn (RiftenBeeandBarb from the Interiors locations).

Double click on the location name and it will open in the render window, and you’ll see the actual inn from above. You can move around scrolling and clicking your mouse wheel. Hold shift to change the view angle. Find a spot you like, go back to the Actors list, grab your follower ID, drag it and drop it in the spot you chose.

You’ll see him pop on the image and in the actors list the Count will go from 0 to 1.

Now there is only one last thing to do.

Click again on your actor ID and then click Ctrl F4 to export the face gen data (we’ll need them in a while).

Save for the last time, your follower is now ready to play!

Step 7: Give your NPC His Pretty Face

If you used a modded racemenu, with extra sliders, or custom facegen meshes, you already saw that your character in the Creation Kit doesn’t look right. That’s because the Kit doesn’t support the extra sculpting, and you’ll have to fix this manually by using the exported mesh (aka the .nif file you saved at the beginning of the tutorial).

A .nif file is basically a 3D model of your NPC’s head. You can open it with a program called Nifscope, but you don’t need it for now. What you need are the two other things I listed at the beginning: Nif Optimizer and Nif Merge.

Quick explanation from what I understood (correct me if I’m wrong).

What we need to do now is to “merge” the vanilla head with your custom head so that the shape matches and the character’s head has the morphs you gave it in the racemenu. But since the Nif Merge was made for Skyrim old edition and it’s not compatible with the Special Edition, we need to take a few extra steps to fix things.

Now open your game folder, we’ll go fetch your .nif files.

If you have the game on Steam your path should be:

Steam > steamapps > common > Skyrim Special Edition > Data > SKSE > Plugins > CharGen

In this folder you’ll find the file we exported with the racemenu in Step 2 (in my case it’s OwenFollower.nif and also the tintmask called OwenFollower.dds).

Just to avoid messing up, I prefer to make a copy and put the files in a folder on my desktop, let’s call the folder Owen.

Then follow this path:

Steam > steamapps > common > Skyrim Special Edition > Data > meshes > actor > character > facegendata > facegeom

And search through the folders until you find the one with the name of your follower’s plugin (for me it’s AWhOwen.esp). Now copy the .nif file you’ll find in there (it will be a series of letters and numbers) and put it in your desktop folder with the other files.

Now open Nif Optimizer. What you need to do is sort of “convert” the file to the previous Skyrim version: select Head Parts Only and click LE on the bottom right. Then browse to the folder with your .nif files (Owen).

Click optimize. Do it two or three times just to be sure.

Now open Nif Merge.

In Source NPC Face Model drop the file you exported from racemenu (OwenFollower.nif) you just optimized.

In Target NPC Face Model drop the file generated by the Creation Kit (the one with numbers and letters), again the optimized version in your desktop folder.

If everything worked fine, you should be able to click on the buttons.

First click Match by Vertex, then click Merge to Target.

Now you should have the head fixed with your custom shape.

Next you’ll have to “optimize” the file again, to go back to the SSE version.

Open Nif Optimizer as we did before, but this time be sure to select Head Parts Only and SSE.

Browse again to your desktop folder and click Optimize a few times.

Your .nif should be good to go now.

You can check if the shape is alright by opening the .nif file with Nifskope. It could happen sometimes that the head is not exported correctly or something else can go wrong. In this case, repeat the procedure from the beginning (that’s why I told you to make a copy of the original .nif files on your desktop).

To complete the process, take your optimized .nif file, the one with the numbers and letters, and paste it into its original folder (again the path is: Steam > steamapps > common > Skyrim Special Edition > Data > meshes > actor > character > facegendata > facegeom > AWhOwen.esp) – confirm that you want to replace the file and it’s done.

What about that .dds file created when you exported your npc’s head from racemenu?

It’s a tintmask with the face painting, like makeup or warpaint, if you added any.

Usually, the Creation Kit generates the tintmask for you when you import the .npc file, but to be sure that all the colors are how you intended you can rename your .dds file with the letters and numbers corresponding to the .nif of the head and then paste it inside this folder:

textures > actor > character > facegendata > facetint > AWhOwen.esp (or whatever you plugin is named.esp)

Step 7.5: Fix the Custom Hair Texture Path

If you followed Step 4.5 and added custom hair to your character, you’ll now have a tiny problem.

The .nif file of your character’s head points to the texture of the mod from where you got the hairstyle. But we need it to point to your custom follower folders. It’s a quick fix.

Open with Nifscope the .nif file of your character’s head that we just saved and replaced, be sure it’s the one in your game Data folder.

Remember when we searched for the .dds file names before? Let’s get back to those lines selecting again the 35 BSShaderTextureSet branch for each part of the hair.

In the box below, we need to manually replace the name of the path leading to the texture. You can edit it by double clicking then just type or copy-paste the new path, like this:

textures\ks hairdo’s\hairline\hairline01.dds

textures\ks hairdo’s\hairline\hairline01_n.dds

Should become:

textures\actors\character\awh\hairline\hairline01.dds

textures\actors\character\awh\hairline\hairline01_n.dds

(or wherever you placed your textures)

And:

textures\ks hairdo’s\rough sketch.dds

textures\ks hairdo’s\rough sketch_n.dds

Should become:

textures\actors\character\awh\Owen\rough sketch.dds

textures\actors\character\awh\Owen\rough sketch_n.dds

(or wherever you placed your textures)

Save the file (Ctrl+S) and we are finally ready to play.

Step 8: Activate your Plugin

Now that everything is ready, there is one last thing to do.

Open your mod manager and activate your plugin file.

I use Vortex and for me it works this way:

Open Vortex, click on Plugins on the left column, search the name of your .esp (mine will be AWhOwen.esp) and click on the gray button that says “Disabled”, it should turn green and say “Enabled”.

Deploy your mods with the Deploy button above and everything is set.

Now you are ready to open any of your saved games and travel to the place where you put your character so you can meet him and ask him to follow you.

Have fun! And let me know if there are any issues I wasn’t aware of or if I got something wrong.

BONUS: Editing Existing NPCs and making changes to your Follower

What if you want to edit an NPC who’s already in the game? That could be the case for example if you want to change your follower hairstyle or hair color etc. or if you want to change the face or hair of a vanilla NPC.

The procedure is quite similar but this time you don’t have to create a new actor since it’s already there.

Open the Creation Kit and load the main Skyrim.esm alone if you want to change a vanilla NPC or load also the corresponding mod file if you want to change an NPC belonging to a mod.

If you are editing an existing plugin you must select the .esp file and click “Set as Active File” so you will be able to save over it, otherwise it will create a new file and you’ll have a double of your existing mod.

Search for the name of the actor you want to change, double click to open the window with the stats etc.

Then go to the Character Gen Parts tab and repeat what we did in Step 4 and 4.5.

Change what you need to change. If you have a custom head mesh, repeat Step 7 and 7.5.

If you are having issues like your NPC looks weird or has a dark face, go back to the Creation Kit, click on the actor ID and export the head with Ctrl F4, then repeat Step 7 if needed. Everything should be back to normal.

BONUS 2: How to pack your follower mod for sharing with other people

So now that you have your plugin activated, you’ll notice that all the files are loose inside your game folders. But what if you wanted to share your mod with a friend or post it online?

You can easily make a zip archive with all the files needed.

You can do this manually just by creating the specific folders and placing your files in them.

The important thing when you create the mod archive is that all the folders should correspond to the folders in the game, so that when someone unpacks your files they will all go in the right place.

Here are the folders you need:

Main folder (can have any name you like it’s just to keep things together).

Here you’ll copy your .esp file (in my case it’s AWhOwen.esp) and create two folders called meshes and textures.

Inside the meshes folder you should create these nested folders:

meshes > actor > character > facegendata > facegeom > AWhOwen.esp (or whatever you plugin is named.esp)

In the AWhOwen.esp folder place the optimized and merged .nif file of the npc’s head.

Inside the textures folder you should create these nested folders:

textures > actor > character > facegendata > facetint > AWhOwen.esp (or whatever you plugin is named.esp)

If you have custom textures, you should also add the texture folder in one of the subfolders (I place them under character) – be sure to check that the texture path in your .nif file corresponds to the folders you create.

Then in the AWhOwen.esp folder I place the .dds file of my npc’s facetint.

Now go back to the main folder and compress everything into a zipped archive. You can use Winzip, Winrar, 7zip or any other similar program.

The file is now ready to be shared ^_^

Please keep in mind that the file you created only contains the textures and meshes you added, and for the other assets it relies on the vanilla game. If you use a texture mod for your npc’s skin, for example, the other person using the mod should install the same plugin to see the character the way you see it. Or if he uses a different skin instead, it will look slightly different.

That’s why it’s a good practice to credit and state which mods you used to make your followers. And also make sure that the creators of the mods you used allow them to be transformed and shared on the web.

Making a standalone follower with its own textures and body meshes, custom weapons, armor, voice, etc. it’s a whole different can of worms that I wasn’t able to cover with this tutorial.

I still hope it works for you, anyway.

If you want to download and play with Owen you can find him here 🙂

10 thoughts on “Skyrim Special Edition: Making a Custom NPC Follower

    • Author gravatar

      Amazing guide. Helped me make an extremely custom follower from start to finish. The only thing I would add which I found out on my own is that if you intend for your character to use High Poly Head, then you also have to add the high poly default headmesh + corresponding .tri files. Then make a new headpart out of them and set as “Face” in the dropdown. Make sure if your follower is female you use the female high poly headmesh and for males use the male one. Go back to your character and switch to this headpart you created before exporting their FaceGeom from the Creation Kit. If the character you made in RaceMenu used a high poly head and you don’t do this, you’ll get really bad errors in-game after going through the nif optimizer / nif merge process. Thank you again for the guide, it covers absolutely everything where as other guides only seem to cover certain parts.

      • Author gravatar

        Thanks! I’m glad it was helpful 😀
        I never used high poly head so thanks for the info, I’m sure some will find it useful if they come across this post.
        Happy Skyrim ^_^

    • Author gravatar

      I ran into issues trying to add custom hair from KS Hairdo’s. There was no option to add a head part for the head, so I couldn’t complete step 4.5

      • Author gravatar

        Not sure what is the issue:
        “From the Object Window, click on Head Part and right click on the list. Select New.”
        You can find the HeadPart right under Faction, if you don’t see it, you need to expand the Character tab (clicking on the + sign). Once you click on HeadPart you’ll see a list of all the head parts in the game, you just have to right click it and select “new” then compile the form like in the picture on step 4.5.
        I always use KS hair and never had any problems 🙂

    • Author gravatar

      OMG!
      Thank you so much for this step-by-step process! I have been wanting to make mods but had no idea where to start other than get the creation kit… I actually ported my first mod for myself ( have to triple n check permissions n learn how to upload it to the nexus, actually did 6 total today .. yeah!!! ) lol.. I wonder if you have more step-by-step tutorials, I would definitely be interested! Anywho I am gonna try this tomorrow to make my first follower, and your guide will be my lifeline! I appreciate all the effort you put in and the time in making this so again thank you so very much n blessed be ~
      Kathi aka Killiaynna Fayne
      (nexus @ ASTRIDnLAFKA at the moment)

      • Author gravatar

        Glad to help!
        I struggled so much to find all the info to make a proper mod so I thought it would be useful to post what I did and worked for me 😀
        I made another couple of tutorials on how to make a shop/merchant and add a custom quest to an NPC – you can find them in the Fun & Games page (https://www.allisonwadefantasy.com/fun-games/) – I’ll probably do more when I learn to do some other interesting things 🙂

    • Author gravatar

      Okay, i just ran a problem, everytime i generate the Facegen in CK, the Eyebrow part always has a lower vertices than the actual meshes, i’m using a High Poly Head Brow Meshes, this causing some weird graphical issue if i tried to Force merge it. and if i’m not merge it, the meshes would just clip.

    • Author gravatar

      how come the races don’t show up to me

      • Author gravatar

        If you use “A change of face” it’s like the menu of the Face Sculptor in Riften and you can’t change the race of your NPC, you can only do it by typing “showracemenu” in the console or starting a new game.

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