11 years later, Skyrim treasure hunting is finally fun with this Red Dead Redemption-style journal

Skyrim Hearthfire
(Image credit: Bethesda)

I've never enjoyed treasure hunting in Skyrim. Not really. I mean, fair enough, Bethesda's enduring action role-player is over 11 years old at this point, but for a game with such an impressive sandbox, one that offers so much variety, and so many activities that deviate from its main quest line, it's always bugged me that something that could, and probably should, be brilliant in this world is a wee bit lacking. You don't need me to tell you that Skyrim has stood (and continues to stand) the test of time – Skyrim survived the decade and Bethesda believes "people will still be playing it" in the next one – but given it still continues to roll out new editions and new patches on new platforms, the desire to see improvements applied to its quieter moments doesn't feel unreasonable.  

The best Skyrim mods are one reason folk still flock to this part of Tamriel today, and it's Dr Mabuse's Dynamic Treasure Map Journal that's got me roving the dragon-ravaged realm once more in search of gold and goodies. The fan-made project doesn't revolutionize Skyrim treasure hunting by any means, but it does add a layer of sophistication to it, making it feel more involved and engaging – akin to the likes of Red Dead Redemption 2 and its forerunner.

Gold in them hills


(Image credit: Bethesda)

It's getting darker and colder here in the UK, which means comfort gaming is never far from my mind. Naturally, what you consider a comfort game yourself – games that we love returning to, no matter how familiar we are with them – will depend on your tastes. Our 10 games to make you feel good is a hit list of some of the best warm and fuzzies around, while our gathering of the best relaxing games for letting your mind chill does exactly what it says on the tin. It's definitely worth name-dropping our 7 upcoming cozy games that should be on your radar roundup here – but, equally, the past plays a huge part in the process, because nostalgia often drives our appetite for comfort games.

For me, Skyrim is always near the top of my list. And because I've finished its mainline quest more times than I can count, and the fact I think I've covered all permutations of faction loyalty and treachery, finding new things to do, or going back over side activities off the beaten track, is always my go-to. With Dr Mabuse's Dynamic Treasure Map Journal installed – the mod itself first uploaded to Nexus Mods last week – I'm pillaging and pilfering with a journal that displays treasures maps as I read them, tracking any treasure I've already found, and systematically and dynamically updating with every map I uncover and every chest I unlock. Immersive may be a tired cliche when discussing open-world game mechanics, but this mod really does up the immersion of tracking, hunting, and finding treasure across the map.

"I doubt I'll ever be required to rove in a world filled with dragons and draugrs in real life... but these sprinklings of realism make the fantasy feel credible."

Which is exactly what I love about treasure hunting in Red Dead Redemption 2 – and what I loved about doing so in the first game and its Undead Nightmare spinoff DLC. In sophistication terms, Skyrim's side quests really don't compare to the ones found in these games, but, for me, the world of Skyrim itself is just as explorable as Rockstar's interpretations of the American frontier. Even when you know exactly where you're going, and where every path leads, there's still something wonderful about hiking in the Winterhold mountains, or trekking from Whiterun to Markarth. Upping the sense of discovery tied to treasure hunting inside such a majestic playground, then, feels great – from first obtaining the journal on a shelf inside a bandit camp in Helgen, to capturing the final prize as illustrated by Treasure Map X. 

Since its debut on Nexus Mods last week, creator Dr Mabuse has updated Dynamic Treasure Map Journal to support other popular mod projects, such as New Treasure Hunt and Treasure Hunter maps, both of which add new player-crafted treasure trails. I've tried both, and while they're neat extensions of Skyrim's base treasure hunts, another mod I've enjoyed pairing with this one is AndrealphusVIII's Helps to Have a Map – a mod that restricts using the map menu, requiring players to obtain and equip physical maps, similar to, say, Elden Ring or games of this ilk. 

With Helps to Have a Map and Dynamic Treasure Map Journal installed together, I feel like a proper adventurer, scraping by in Skyrim and surviving as I get my hands on maps to help me navigate and prosper in a world I otherwise know very well. I doubt I'll ever be required to rove in a world filled with dragons and draugrs in real life (although, given what we've seen on planet Earth over the last few years, anything is possible), but these sprinklings of realism make the fantasy feel credible. Dynamic Treasure Map Journal might not reinvent the wheel to this end, but it does lend weight to treasure hunting in Skyrim, in turn making it feel like less of an afterthought. And, for me, anything that can make an 11-year-old game feel fresh is a bounty in itself.   

Love adventuring? Check out the best games like Skyrim roving the world right now 

Joe Donnelly
Features Editor, GamesRadar+

Joe is a Features Editor at GamesRadar+. With over seven years of experience working in specialist print and online journalism, Joe has written for a number of gaming, sport and entertainment publications including PC Gamer, Edge, Play and FourFourTwo. He is well-versed in all things Grand Theft Auto and spends much of his spare time swapping real-world Glasgow for GTA Online’s Los Santos. Joe is also a mental health advocate and has written a book about video games, mental health and their complex intersections. He is a regular expert contributor on both subjects for BBC radio. Many moons ago, he was a fully-qualified plumber which basically makes him Super Mario.