A beginner's guide, lesson 2 - Creating a room

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Preamble[edit | edit source]

This is the second in a proposed series of Tutorial Lessons aimed at teaching how to mod TES IV: Oblivion aimed at beginners. It will build up into a Complete Modding Course. Don't worry there are no exams, though there is some homework. It is not intended to aid the transfer of modders from Morrowind nor it is intended for experienced modders, although as the series develops you may find something of interest in them.

Introduction[edit | edit source]

In the first lesson we learned how to place objects into an existing set. In this lesson we will expand upon this by creating our very own set. Hopefully you now feel confident enough about using the Render Window. This lesson will focus much more on the Object Window, and the Cell View Window.

Just as a reminder the main Render Window controls are:

Centre Wheel Scroll – Zoom
Centre Wheel Hold – Pan
Shift + mouse -- Rotate
C – Centre On selected
T – Top View selected

D – De-select
LH mouse – move x, y
Z + LH mouse move z
X + LH mouse move x only
Y + LH mouse move y only
F – Fall
CTRL x – cut
CTRL c – copy
CTRL v – paste
CTRL d – copy and paste in present position (double)
LH mouse (from deselected) select multi-objects

RH mouse – rotate
RH mouse + y rotate about y
RH mouse + x rotate about x

A - Toggle Bright Light

A Note on Dirty Mods[edit | edit source]

Before we get started I would like to begin with a little addendum to some advice I offered in Lesson One. As I have said, I am a beginner, and it’s always great to receive some tips from one of the pros - in this case a modder called Klinn. I have come across Klinn’s work in connection with Roller Coaster Tycoon 3, and was as thrilled as could be to find that he spared some time to offer some advice regarding the topic of ‘dirty mods’. These are mods which, although well meaning, have unfortunate effects on the whole game world. Something as simple as altering the content of a chest can have a dramatic effect on all the other chests in the game. I should have been clearer about this in lesson one because…

In lesson one, I wrote:

"Aside, double-click on the block and a dialog box will open giving information about the block. Check that the name of the object is <name>. If it is not, close the dialog box, deselect and try again. In the central area is some information about the object's position. This lists the object's x, y, and z co-ords, and some info about rotation. These should all read 0,0,0. This is the default position. If in the course of the tutorial you drag the building out of the way by mistake. Don’t panic. Select it open the dialog and reset it to 0,0,0."

Klinn correctly pointed out:

"Unfortunately, trying to reset objects this way can lead to a "dirty mod". The Editor has no way of knowing that you are 'un-doing' an accidental change, so it will still mark that object as modified with the '*' beside it. Experienced users of mods will check them out for signs of their being 'dirty' since they know the problems that can cause. If something is marked as changed that does not have anything to do with the mod, e.g. you accidentally moved some wall in some other tavern while checking it out, then they will know something is up and therefore will be less likely to use your mod. So if you want your work appreciated, be sure to keep it clean. Always keep backups as you work on your mod. Then if you accidentally move something, it's easy to revert to the last good version without losing too much work. There are ways of using the Details list or possibly other tools (I'm not sure how the Oblivion tools are coming along, there used to be some for Morrowind) to patch up a dirty mod, but it's best to develop working habits to avoid the problem in the first place."

Clearly, if you have no intention of releasing a mod, it makes no difference whether it is dirty or not. But it is good practice to follow the advice given and save, save, save. It is also good practice to follow the advice to look at any mods you are downloading, and scan for the changes it is making. A mod that adds a new building should not change any of the existing buildings or objects. If you see that it has altered one of the standard chests, crates or containers, be very wary of that mod. I would also advise you to keep an eye on the changes you are making, and where necessary record them. The above issue where a building was edited by accident and then corrected will mark the mod as dirty. However a well documented Readme.txt explaining why it shows up as edited could be the difference between a mod being loaded or not.

If you do find that you've accidentally created a "dirty" mod, and the prospect of losing several days' work is not appealing to you, there are ways to clean it up again. See the Mod Cleaning Tutorial for more information.

The Setting: The Oak and Crosier Inn[edit | edit source]

Again let's have a quick in-game tour of a location and use that as a base to work on. This time let’s visit the city of Chorrol, and more precisely, the Oak and Crosier Inn. Save the game three or four times as a back up, and fast travel to Chorrol. The inn is just opposite the South Gate. Inns are a good base to practice because they are public places. Everyone can visit them anytime of the day regardless of where they are in the game. I've chosen this inn because it has a cellar or basement.

This is what we are going to mod. The door to the cellar is just to the left of the bar, and it is firmly locked. That’s a shame because we want to nose around in there before we wreck the joint. We could of course use the in-game console to open it, but we would still be trespassing. No problem – let’s mod it open.

Finding the Doors[edit | edit source]

Save the game again. Close it, and open up the CS.

Use File >> Data to select the Oblivion.esm file.

Look in the Cell View Window for the Oak and Crosier Inn. The interior for the Oak and Crosier is listed under:


Double-click on it and the tavern interior will appear in the Render Window. The right-hand side of the Cell View Window will now list the objects that make up the room.

You can move the camera around the rooms to get a better view. Another way to find a specific object is to use the RHS of the Cell View Window. Look at the headers at the top. Find the one marked TYPE. Click on this header to sort all of the objects alphabetically by type. One type of object is called Door. The tavern has four of them. One leads outside, two to rooms you can rent, and the fourth to the cellar. If you double-click on each in the Cell View Window, the Render Window will centre on that object.

But which door is which? If you are unsure you can use the object's reference pop-up to look and see. This is activated by either double-clicking on the object in the Render Window, or by right-clicking the object in the Cell View Window, and then choosing Edit.

Here is as good a time as any to talk about the dialog box.

The Reference Dialog Box[edit | edit source]

The top of the box gives some information about the object itself:

  • Reference Id (normally blank) - This is the database reference for that type of object. We can ignore this for now. It is chiefly used when adding custom objects.
  • Base Object - This gives you information about the file containing the data for this object. Next to it is the Edit Base button. We will use this later on.
These are references to the master file listed in the object window. This is information about ALL similar objects in the ENTIRE game WORLD. If you change this by editing the base you change every single example in the world. TAKE GREAT CARE WITH THIS. I have, to my cost, come across mods which do this. Suddenly every chest I find has 50 gold pieces in it. This is what Klinn meant by a dirty mod.
Why does this happen? The answer is ‘space’. The plug-in you are creating can very quickly become a very large file. To save space the CS does not actually place all the information about every plate, cup and chest you add. Instead it places a marker, which refers to the master file. So <BarrelClutterMiddle01> is a master file containing all sorts of information, including the NIF file that defines its look, the files that define the sound it makes and its contents. It would be an enormous job to remember every change made. If you customise a lot of objects you will get a very large file.

We will look at how you can safely customize objects later. For now, you can safely change all the items below this information.

In the centre are a series of tabs. The door has 5 tabs:

  • 3-D - This gives you information about where the object is in the cell. We used it last time to move objects about.
  • Enable Parent - This is chiefly used in traps and can be ignored for now.
  • Ownership - Info about who the door belongs to.
  • Lock - Info about the type of lock on the door.
  • Teleport - This tells you where the door leads.

At the bottom are six check boxes:

Persistent Reference, Open by Default, etc. We will look at these in more advanced lessons. They are mainly used in setting animated traps, and how we see objects when they first appear, e.g. whether a door is initially open or closed.

Examining the Doors[edit | edit source]

The Oak and Crosier Tavern has four doors. Let's look at the reference dialog box for each, because they each tell us something useful for developing our own mods.

We will begin with the door called ChorrolLoadDoorMiddle01. The name refers again to a master file in the object list.

The centre tabs tell us its location, that it is owned by an NPC called Talasma, and that it has an Average lock.

Let's focus on the Teleport tab.

In the centre is the Teleport information associated with this door.

  • Cell - This tells you the name of the cell that the door leads to - in this case the ChorrolExterior15 cell (-17, 22). ChorrolExterior15 is an exterior cell inside the Chorrol World. This is the area, enclosed by the city walls, that contains all the buildings, trees, etc. that make up the city of Chorrol. The (-17,22) refers to the x, y co-ordinates of ChorrolExterior15 inside that World.
  • Reference - This tells you the name of the door that we are linked to. In this case it is Chorrolloaddoormiddle01. This is the same as the reference for the interior door in the tavern, which means the door looks the same on the inside and outside. It doesn't have to be the same, but it makes sense. Doors don't often look different on the front and back. This is a design choice.
  • View Linked Door and View Teleport Marker - These buttons allow you to jump to the place where the door leads. Click either of them and the Render Window will update to show you the exterior of Chorrol, and the door into the tavern. Click again and you’re back where you started. Neat!

Remember, during Lesson One, how we talked about spaces, worlds, and cells being linked together artificially, by teleport links that tell the game to load up and move you to particular location?

The Fast Travel operation is an obvious example, but in fact this happens every time you open a door and the load screen pops up. The doors themselves are activators. When you press the Spacebar in-game, the program carries out the required teleport instruction.

The teleport marker tells the game the exact position to place you when you teleport. The marker is the yellow box with the odd pink pyramid on its side. The yellow box says where in space you will appear, and the pyramid points in the direction you will face. You don’t need to place the teleport marker near the door. Again, it is a design choice. It makes sense for this to happen, so it does in most examples in the game.

Now let's investigate the two doors marked ChorrolDoorMiddleAnim04 and the oakandcrosierrentdoor. These refer to the two upstairs guest rooms. It's a bit dark up there, so it might help to shed some light on the situation. This is done using the A key. That's much better, we can see.

The doors have similar looks. The ChorrolDoorMiddleAnim04 door refers to a guest room. it has a Hard lock, and it's teleport info is....

What's going on here? The teleport tick box is unchecked and there is some greyed out info about the ‘abandoned mine’!

Look under the oakandcrosierrentdoor door. This is the same.

I have to admit I panicked when this first happened. I thought I had broken the game. I know for a fact that there is a room behind that door because when I first stayed in Chorrol, I spent a night in that room leveling up. It turns out that there are two types of doors: teleport doors - like ChorrolLoadDoorMiddle01 - which, when activated, transport the player to their target, and opening doors, which, when activated, physically swing open. These types of doors are used in display cases, and other doors that don't have to teleport the player anywhere. So panic over, I haven’t broken the game...

Okay, let’s look at the ChorrolDoorMiddleAnim03 door. This is the one that leads to the cellar.

The Tabs tell us that the door is owned by a faction called Generic Owner (a kind of catch-all faction). The lock on the door is Very Easy. It's leveled, so that it gets harder to pick as the player's level increases, but it doesn't require the player to have a key to open it.

The Teleport tab tells us that this links to the cellar of the Oak and Crosier, and that the door inside the cellar is of a similar type to this one.

Let's do a bit of a mod to get that door open so we can nose around.

Unlocking the Basement Door[edit | edit source]

First select the Owner tab. In the Faction drop down list select NONE. Now the door belongs to no one and we can open it without triggering any alarms. Now go to the Lock tab, and in the top left corner uncheck the Locked tick box. The door is now unlocked. Great! However, if we go into the cellar, we are entering a room that belongs to someone else, and we are trespassing. Let’s change that.

Click OK to exit the cellar door's reference window, then look for the cell on the LHS of the Cell View Window that refers to the cellar. It is called ChorrolTheOakandCrosierCellar, and is right above the tavern in the list. Right-click on it, select Edit, and a dialog box pops up. This has three tabs. Common Data, Lighting, and Interior Data. Select Interior Data. In the Ownership drag down box, select NONE.

Click OK to exit and save your mod. Call it something useful like Test02. Now before we go look in the game, just have a quick look at the objects inside the cellar. You'll notice that some of the objects listed under Containers are still owned by an NPC. These are locked chests. If you feel you deserve a treat for all your efforts so far, you could go ahead and change these to no ownership and unlocked. It's a cheat. You’re getting something for nothing. If this bothers you, don't do it. If you do choose to modify these containers, remember to save your mod again.

Now close the CS, start the game, activate your mod, and go look round the cellar. When you have had a good nose around, come back upstairs and save your game again. DO NOT SAVE WHILE YOU’RE DOWN IN THE CELLAR because we are about to mod it out of existence!

Load up the CS. This time, in File >> Data, select BOTH oblivion.esm and the Test02 mod you've just created. Make the Test02 file active. We might as well overwrite this mod since some of the work we need to do is already done.

Take a deep breath, we are about to get creative and carry out some real, functional modding at last.

Creating a New Basement[edit | edit source]

Firstly, we will need an interior cell to work in. We create this by copying an existing cell. We could copy any cell but since we are altering the cellar it makes sense to copy that.

Right-click on the ChorroltheOakandcrosierCellar cell in the Cell Window and select "Duplicate Cell" from the menu. A new cell appears called ChorroltheOakandcrosierCellarCopy001. You can change the name by left-clicking on it in the list and waiting a few seconds. Change it if you like. The game has no rules about the name you give a cell as long as it is unique. Call it ChorroltheOakandcrosierCellarAlternative if you want. This will make it easier to find later.

Clearing Out Existing Objects[edit | edit source]

Now before we get creative, lets get destructive. Begin deleting the objects in the cell until you are left with just three:

ChorrolDoorMiddleAnim03 - type Door
TheOakandcrosierCellar - type Static
Northmarker - type Static.

The first two are pretty essential objects. They are the cellar master file which defines a room, and the door portal to get in and out of that space. The Northmarker is an aesthetic object. It does not show up in the game, but does play an important role in the immersion into the game.

When we Fast Traveled to Chorrol, we arrived facing north with the door behind us. The entrance to the tavern was roughly to the northwest. When we enter the tavern and teleported in with our back to the door, we are still facing northwest.

The door to the cellar faces nearly west. The game needs some info to link these three spaces and decide which way we are facing. When you drop objects into the Render Window, the game assumes that north is towards the top of the screen. Without the Northmarker, this room would be arranged so the cellar door faced west, when we really want it facing east. The Northmarker saves you having to rotate the room and to keep the same footprint as the room above. None of this is essential. This cellar could theoretically face in any direction, be twice the size of Chorrol, or contain an entire Oblivion world. The game will not notice or care, but you, and anyone who uses your mod, will.

Ok, now go ahead and delete these three objects as well. You could leave the door and the Northmarker, since we will be putting them back later, but since this is a practice drill we should do everything from scratch.

We now have a blank cell.

Save it. (In fact, you should save within the CS on a regular basis. Not necessarily after every tiny change, but certainly after you perform major functions like positioning a room, furnishing it, etc. This is not only to avoid dirty mods but because, although the platform is fairly stable, it is not rock solid. So save, save, and save again.)

Creating the New Room[edit | edit source]

The first thing we need is a physical room to work in. The templates or artwork for these are located in the Object Window. The lists on the LHS are organised into five big categories:

  • Actors - All those NPCs you can interact with.
  • Items - All the objects you can carry in your inventory.
  • Magic - All those objects which have a magical effect.
  • Miscellaneous - Objects used externally and animations.
  • World Objects - All the objects you see in the world that you can't put in your inventory.

The World Objects category is where the buildings are kept.

The World Objects list is also sub-divided into 9 branching categories. We will look at each as and when we need them, although most are fairly self-explanatory.

What we want is the World Objects >> Static Objects >> Architecture list. Select this.

A very long list appears. These are all the possible rooms, walls and corridors already made for us to use. You could use any of them for this; it's a question of design rather than a technical issue. However, we want to look at basements and cellar spaces to be consistent.

Where are they?

You could use the Find text option to find all the Static objects containing the word basement. You will find 49 of them. There is only one thing to do when building your own mod and that is to try them all.

Here's a little shortcut to save you time later in your modding career:

Start the CS up again and select only the oblivion.esm.

Make a copy of a cell, empty it out, and rename it TestBasementArch or something equally catchy. Drag and drop all the basement objects into this Render Window and spread them out so you can look at them. You can then save the mod as say libraryofstockitems. Now every time you want to look at some basements, you can load this mod and refer to this library. This library mimics many of the TEST cells already provided by the CS. At first it is a pain. Now I find myself loading up the library mod every time.

For this lesson we want a basement with a door facing the stairs, so it fits in with the basic architecture of the inn. I suggest you use the BravilFightersGuildBasement01 object. Drag it into the window. It is, of course, up to you which you use.

You can start dropping objects in now if you like, but why not make your life a little easier for later? Open up the BravilFightersGuildBasement01 reference box, and look at the x, y and z co-ordinates. They are pretty random. Lets set this to 0,0,0. Note that you may need to press C to re-centre the room in the Render Window after making this change.

Once again the CS has an odd default setting for the lighting of objects. It sets the light at zero. We can use the A key to set an artificially bright light while we edit. To change the in-game lighting in the cell, we need to right-click on the cell on the left side of the Cell View Window, and choose Edit.

The lighting is controlled by a set of clickable boxes. Again, you can set values how you like. Most underground spaces in the game are set at a value of 30. Make them a bit brighter if you like. For that totally realistic effect, you could leave them at 0 and manually add light objects in the Render Window. This however, uses a lot of processor power, and will cripple low spec users. For our basement, let's set the lights at 50. It's a practical compromise between dark and functional. Press A to switch off the artificial lights to see the effects.

Use the camera keys to look at the architecture of your new basement. If you are using the suggested piece, you will notice two archways with nothing beyond them. This is because this piece is part of a set, which allows you to extend further. The piece we will use for this is BravilFightersGuildBasement02.

We need to position this so that it lines up neatly with the archways in the game. However, once again the designers have been a bit helpful here. If we use the 0,0,0 reference trick we have just tried, the piece slots into position automatically. This doesn't work for all objects, but it's a nice shortcut when using pieces that are designed to slot together. At the very least it brings the pieces together so they are easier to drag into position.

Adding a Door[edit | edit source]

We now have a building - let's add in the door.

In World Objects, select Doors, locate the ChorrolDoorMiddleAnim03 and drop it into the window. Use the object placement techniques we learned in Lesson One to put the door in position at the top of the stairs. It's not a perfect fit, but if we put it in front of the rectangular door space it will do the job fine.

Adding a Northmarker[edit | edit source]

Before we link it to the tavern lets just look at the Northmarker.

  • You can find Northmarker under the object window as WorldObjects>>Static>>Northmarker.

Now I have had a real problem adding Northmarkers to the Render Window, but I have found a workaround. Try dragging and dropping from the Object Window first. Sometimes it works - sometimes it doesn't. If it doesn't here’s what to do. From the Static list, drag a Night Mother Statue Base in to the Render Window. It’s the object just above the Northmarker. Now use search and replace to replace it with the Northmarker. Position the Northmarker just outside the door and adjust its Z angle to 270 so it faces left in the Render Window view. Now go to top view and shift it about 5 degrees. This ties in with the marker in the original cellar cell. You can move between the two to confirm the set up.

If you can't see the Northmarker make sure markers are enabled in the View menu.

Linking the Room to the Tavern[edit | edit source]

The next task is to link the door from your room to the tavern. First we are going to disable the existing link. This is because the CS has already allocated a link to that door and will not let us use it. It’s a useful safety feature.

Load up the original tavern cell, and locate the cellar door. Open the cellar door's reference window. Now select Teleport. Uncheck the teleport check. We have broken the link. Close the box and open it again. Tick the box and you will be greeted, assuming no other mods are loaded, with the Cell and Reference information about the Abandoned Mine.

Click on the drop down menu to the right of the Cell information and scroll down to find ChorroltheOakandcrosierCellarAlternative.

Now do the same to the reference box. Here we are offered only one option which is the ChorrolDoorMiddleAnim03 we have added. If we had added other doors, we would have been offered other options. That’s the link done. The CS takes care of the other side of the door (in the cellar) for us.

Close the dialog box. We have now linked our cellar to the tavern. But we still have a really important job to do - which is to set our teleport markers. The CS has a curious but practical default setting. It establishes the marker inside the door itself. If we used it as is we would materialise in the middle of the cellar door and that is never fun. We should be able to see the marker inside the tavern. It behaves just like every other object. We can drag it, rotate it, and use the F key to make it fall. Remember to hold your right mouse button over the door marker to rotate it about the z axis. Reposition it so that the pink pyramid faces away from the door and you have a good clearance, avoiding collision with objects in the tavern.

Now add a teleport marker to the cellar. Save your mod. Go test it, making sure the door works in both directions.

Setting Ownership[edit | edit source]

Now let’s make the room belong to the player. First right-click and choose Edit on the ChorroltheOakandcrosierCellarAlternative. In the Interior Data section, select the NPC owner and scroll down till you find Player. You now own the cellar.

Decorating the New Room[edit | edit source]

I don’t intend to tell you how to decorate your space. Instead I am going to offer tips and pointers.

Chairs and Beds[edit | edit source]

Be careful when placing chairs and beds as each comes in two flavors. The first can be found under World Object >> Static >> Furniture. These chairs and beds are set decoration, and you cannot lie on them to sleep or sit on them. The second type is listed under World Objects >> Furniture. These are interactive. You can tell the difference because the usable items come with two blue wire frame models attached which show the starting and finishing position of a character as the in-game animation runs. (Beds use these animation positions for NPC's only, as you never actually see the player lay down when you activate a bed.) Again position these to avoid collision problems.

Containers[edit | edit source]

Take huge care when customising any object. This is how you can safely change an object without making that change universal. Drag and drop a container like a chest into your room and position it where you want it.

Save the mod. This is a backup in case you make a mistake. Now right-click the container and select Edit Base. Now look at the ID at the top of the box. Change it to something meaningful and unique. It can be anything as long as it is unique. The CS will challenge you if you don’t do this. I prefer to name my custom objects by adding my initials and a short code about which mod I’m using them in, then the name of the object. So if I was about to change the barrel called BarrelMiddleClutterSame03 in a mod for a building called Verona House, I might call it TDVERHBarrelMiddleClutterSame03.

You can now add or delete items in the container. You can decide to make it respawn, or add leveled content.

Now click the OK button.

A very scary looking dialog box appears. Again, the first time I saw this I panicked and clicked No. This is a very bad thing to do.

The box for the above operation would read:

Old Id: BarrelMiddleClutterSame03
New Id: TDVERHBarrelMiddleClutterSame03
You have changed the Form’s Editor Id
Create a new form?


What this is saying is that you have changed the name of the Master file relating to the middle class barrel. Should I change all middle class barrels or make a new form? You want a new form, so click Yes.

This is important so I will say it again. To change the base of an object, change its ID, then click OK and say YES. This will ensure that your changes only affect the container you are working with (because you've given it a unique name), and prevent the Dirty Mod Syndrome.

Bookcases[edit | edit source]

Just a quick tip here. Position one book on top of the bookshelf using the techniques we discussed last lesson. Now hit F repeatedly. Wait a few seconds between taps and eventually the book will fall through the bookcase top onto the shelf. If you plan to add a lot of books, try this. Lift the first book so it hovers in the air. Use CTRL - D to duplicate it and move it along so it is in the correct position next to the first book. You now have two hovering books. Leave them for now. Use Search and replace to change books to get a variety. The reason we let the books hover? Well, some books are larger than others. This method will stop these bigger books colliding with the shelf. Once the shelf is full, you can go along and make each book fall. Job done!

Lights[edit | edit source]

There are three types of lighting effects provided. One type is those which look like practical lights but don’t work. You will find these under Static Objects.

The other two are listed under World Objects >> Lights. The second type of light looks like a light emitting object (eg candle, chandelier, etc) and works. The other is simply an ambient light with no physical form. I have found that the practical working lights offer the best atmosphere but at an increased processor cost. Try to mix these up to get a smooth running mod.

Testing[edit | edit source]

Don’t forget to test your mod in-game and pay attention to any warnings regarding scripting or questing conflicts in the CS.

A few tips for your mods[edit | edit source]

1. Ignore what everyone else is doing. Build your mod for yourself. No matter how good your mod is someone will moan. So make it how you want, then decide if you want the community to share it. Never mod for the benefit of others and the detriment of yourself unless you are getting paid to do it.

2. Save and Save and Save.

3. Keep it clean (see above re-dirty mods)

4. Don’t use the download sites to test Beta versions of your mod without clear precise instructions about its untested status. Try to build up a bank of play testers to try your mod for you.

5. When building a house try to have in mind a quest, sale value or story to justify why it is there.

6. Try to avoid uber houses. It kind of spoils the point if your house has every piece of armour, every spell, every potion and every book. If this is the house you’re building make the player work his socks off to get it, e.g. complete 3 or 4 of the major quests and then some.

7. This is the most important one of all. PLAY THE GAME. Not only will you learn how things are done, but if you don’t, you can, and believe me it is easy to do, forget just how brilliant Oblivion is.

In Lesson 3: The external world, we step out into the world and start looking at exteriors and landscaping.

Till then Happy Modding.

Tom Dawson

I'd like to give a huge personal thanks to Mike Jones for proofreading this, I've posted it as returned. Great job.