You've just drawn the short straw and now you must seek out a Water Chip to save Vault 13. Where do you start.
One of the first things you should do is get some better equipment and some experience. The best places for this at the start of the game are Vault-15 and Shady Sands. When you exit the Vault-13 caverns, click on the Vault-15 button on the world map. Watch your progress, and when you find a small town (marked by the green circle on the map), stop there. Shady Sands is the name of the town. Spend some time here, talking to people and getting used to the game interface. Shady Sands offers you a good chance to gain some experience, practice some skills and even gain a level or two. One thing it is not good about is getting you too much equipment. For that, you will have to continue on to Vault-15... Take a rope with you when you do. Vault-15 is beyond Shady Sands. Again, use your world map button to automatically point you in the right direction. When you get to Vault-15, you have to click in the green triangle to actually enter the map. As you explore places, you get more green triangles on the town maps. These are places you can immediately jump to when you arrive in a location you've visited before or know about. Walk into the building and use the ladder to climb down into the caverns below. Kill some rats and make your way to the elevator shaft. You need to use a rope on the shaft to be able to climb down it. Ropes are available in Shady Sands... Use the elevator again to climb down. Explore this level. You will need to use another rope on the other broken elevator. The locker in one of the southern rooms has a rope and a leather jacket. Continue on to Level 3. There you will find more rats, a couple of lockers that have goodies (including the 10mm SMG) and learn about the fate of Vault-15. After you are done here, return to Shady Sands and continue your exploration...
Combat can be tricky. Here are some general ideas that you should always follow. They can save your life and help you end the lives of others:
- Have a weapon ready in one of your slots, but have the active item button set to the other slot. This way you don't have to waste time drawing a weapon from inventory at the start of combat, but you will generally not anger as many people by holding a gun in your hand.
- If you have a couple spare action points, reload your gun as often as you can. You never ever want to run out of ammo.
- It's often better to run away from an attacker instead of converting your left-over action points into armor class.
- Use cover. Try to be out of the line of sight of your enemies at the start of combat, move out and shoot, and then move back behind cover. Make them run up to you.
- If you have to heal yourself in combat, open Inventory (cost 4 AP), and use as many Stimpaks as necessary. Be sure to reload your gun while you are there (no extra AP cost.)
- Don't stand between one of your friendly NPCs and his target. Especially if you've armed your friends with burst weapons.
- Use the proper weapon for the job. A grenade or rocket works well for large groups of people, but can be a waste on a single target.
- Never, ever forget targeted shots!
- The closer you are to your target, the better your to-hit number (and his!)
- If you are too weak to properly use a weapon, it will only cost you -20% to hit for each point of ST below the minimum. A high skill will get rid of this penalty easily.
- It doesn't matter how good your armor is - a critical hit will take you out. Save often before entering dangerous areas...
That should help you out in combat. Now get out there and take care of those mutants!
Save often! Ideally you should quicksave after every battle and before every conversation. Having to play even a few minutes' worth of shootin' and lootin' all over again because you made the wrong choice in a dialogue can be irksome. (Of course it may also happen that you realize only afterwards that you've done something wrong and wish you had not saved...) I'd also recommend keeping a save game slot for each time you enter a new major location (town etc.). This way if you really screw up somehow and only find out after you save (it can happen), you "only" have to replay that area. These saves can also come in handy later on if you want to see what would have happened if you'd done differently in a particular quest.
When allotting char points there are some things to keep in mind:
- Strength: Useful for carrying stuff and using weapons properly. Start out with at least 5, but ST can be increased by 4 points during the game so more than 6 is probably overdoing it.
- Perception: Good for ranged weapons, but not crucial. You should start with at least 5 for the Awareness perk.
- Endurance: Determines Hit Points and not much else. Unless you like close combat a little too much I wouldn't put more than 4.
- Charisma: Not so useful, unfortunately. Affects bartering both directly and indirectly, but does not limit your number of NPC followers. A CH of 1 is perfectly viable.
- Intelligence: Unless you plan to rely on brute force for everything, this is likely your most important statistic since it rules conversation and determines skill points per level. 7 is a good starting value.
- Agility: Determines your Action Points, so you probably don't want less than 6, and starting with anything up to 10 doesn't hurt.
- Luck: A high LK is good if you plan on getting Sniper, or special encounters. If you don't care about critical hits you won't suffer much from a low Luck score, otherwise don't start with less than 5 (or you won't get Better Criticals).
Stats can never be effectively raised above 10. Every stat can be raised by 1 permanently during the game (except ST which goes up by 4), so starting with 10 in any stat is a bit of a waste. IN and LK can be raised by 2 permanently instead of 1 by taking advantage of scripting glitches, so if you're not above that you shouldn't begin with more than 8 in those. EN and AG work in the way that an odd score will not give you any significant advantages compared to the even number below, e.g. AG 6 or 7 both give you 8 Action Points. Keep this in mind, but also keep in mind you can increase these stats by one, which is why you may want to start with, say, AG 9 and not 8 or 10.
If you set IN lower than 4, your character will (usually) only be able to speak in grunts, unable to carry on any meaningful dialogue. Needless to say this will severely impair your ability to take on and solve quests, but you can use Mentats to help with that. (Note that you can also use Mentats "in reverse" during a normal game - take one or two and wait one hour for your stats to drop below normal - if you want to take advantage of an IN<4 feature. Psycho is even more effective).
A Strength of 5 is enough to handle all small guns. A ST of 7 is sufficient to wield all big guns and energy weapons, and in fact ST 6 is enough for everything but the Minigun. Once you get the Powered Armor you don't have to worry about this.
- Small Frame: If you plan on keeping at least one NPC around, this essentially has no downside. Even if you're going solo it's not so bad since you don't really need to carry much junk around.
- One Hander: Many of the best weapons in the game are two-handed, but it's good for kung fu characters since the bonus applies for Unarmed-class weaponry, none of which is two-handed (your basic hands-and-feet attack is unaffected).
- Finesse: Decent trade-off.
- Fast Shot: A personal favourite, because I like firing a Turbo Plasma Rifle five times during a round. Also goes well with big guns and burst weapons, obviously. Don't take this if you're a hard-core sniper though. If you get Sniper or Slayer, it rocks. Note the difference from Fallout 2 that it benefits HtH combat as well as ranged.
- Gifted: The stat bonuses counteract the skill penalties (especially if you put a few extra points to IN), so this is universally regarded as the best trait. I don't use it myself because it almost feels like cheating, or at the very least it spoils the challenge of balancing your stats.
If you raise your stats with Bruiser, Small Frame or Gifted, you can redistribute the extra point(s) manually, so think of them as extra generic charicter points, although technically this is not so (which is reflected in the fact that you can't lower the raised skills below certain values, but that should never be a problem).
Potentially useful but not overly worthwhile traits:
- Heavy Handed: Some extra damage early on for HtH characters, but not so good in the long run if you plan on getting Better Criticals and Slayer.
- Jinxed: Could be useful in a pure (and weird) HtH game. If you or your party members are using guns yourself you shouldn't want to randomize combat unless you're always worse at it than the critters you'll be fighting (in which case you may want to rethink your playing style entirely).
- Good Natured: Decent if you only plan on using one combat skill (i.e. Small Guns), or, obviously, if you don't plan on using any combat skills. Otherwise you might as well choose something else. Bad in a stupid game.
Traits to avoid:
- Fast Metabolism: Both effects are utterly marginal, so it's simply an utterly marginal trait.
- Bruiser: Two more stat points, but you need the AP. That's like losing four points of Agility, which is ridiculous for an HtH character.
- Kamikaze: Trade away protection for Sequence which matters only during the first combat round? No thanks.
- Bloody Mess: Could be fun to begin with, but doesn't do anything in game terms, and gets tiresome. You'll see those animations anyway and it will feel more like a reward (!) without this trait. (much more useful as a perk in Fallout 3)
- Night Person: This is very bad considering how many people will only talk to you during daytime. Could be used in a stupid game, but I wouldn't bother.
- Skilled: With a decent IN you'll be swimming in skill points. A horrible trait, avoid like the plague (unless you have IN 1 or something, though it beats me why you would).
- Chem Reliant: The average time you spend being addicted won't change, so what's the big deal? Chem use is marginal anyway and most players will probably just reload if they get addicted.
- Chem Resistant: A convenience if you're playing a chem user, but even so it's little more than that (you don't have to reload as often).
Recommended skills to tag (unless you're going for a stupid game):
- Small Guns: Your primary combat skill for most of the game. Can be used all the way to the end.
- Lockpick: There are many locked containers and doors and you'll want to open them with a minimum of fuss. Getting it to 70-80% may be enough if you use Lock Picks, or raise it to 100% just for the convenience.
- Speech: Because you want people to like you and be impressed with you and give you quests and generally do what you tell them to.
Tag these and bump them up to around 100% early on (except possibly Small Guns if you want more use out of those Guns and Bullets magazines), it will pay off. Eventually you'll want one combat skill at, say, 150%. Unless that one is Small Guns, choose one of the following according to preference (one of these would probably be a tag skill instead of Speech in a stupid game):
- Energy Weapons: The best combat skill during the final stages of the game.
- Unarmed: Some prefer this to Melee Weapons (mostly because the Power Fist doesn't have knockback).
- Melee Weapons: Neat once you get the Super Sledge, limited use early on.
Skills you need not spend points on:
- Big Guns: Only used late in the game, and not as effective as you'd think, either.
- Throwing: Rocks and grenades simply don't play a huge role in the world of Fallout.
- First Aid: Since it starts out higher than Doctor you'll probably be using this some at the beginning of the game. Once you get to the Hub you can raise it to 91% using books and you don't need more.
- Doctor: Pretty marginal. You can fix a broken limb at a very low skill level, and other than that you're fine with First Aid, Stimpaks and natural healing.
- Sneak: Not overly useful, and it doesn't work in many of the situations where it would have been good.
- Steal: You don't need to steal stuff for the trade value, stealing ammo and chems before combat is lame, and there aren't many other uses.
- Traps: There aren't that many traps in the game, actually, and they're not likely to kill you. You can raise it a little for convenience, but you don't really need to.
- Science: Can be raised with books to 91% once you reach the Hub. You don't need more.
- Repair: See Science.
- Barter: You don't have to trade much, and CH is more important for that anyway.
- Gambling: You don't need to get money by gambling.
- Outdoorsman: See Science.
Your number of available skill points are capped at 99 when you level up. You can have more than 99 points stored (e.g. after getting a skill point perk), but only until you level up next time.
Many players actually favour the Sneak skill as in some situations it will let you kill people without anyone noticing, which is useful in assassinations (but this doesn't always work), or sneak up to them before applying HtH pain. Unfortunately many proximity scripts and similar don't bother to check whether you're sneaking or not. It doesn't help when stealing from Killian's tables, for instance.
As a rule, it's not worth it to raise most skills above 100%. Combat skills can be improved beyond that for an extra edge until you reach the point where you get the maximum 95% chance to hit against all opponents and from any reasonable range (which takes a bit longer if you practice the art of aimed shots or blows). Even if you raise Sneak and Steal to their maximum values you'll still get caught a lot, suggesting your chance of success is capped at 95% before negative modifiers are applied (in fact, testing shows no significant difference between Steal 30% and Steal 200% under pretty normal circumstances). Note however that it doesn't cost more skill points to raise a skill at high skill levels.
Some things to remember when stealing:
You gain a bonus (or suffer a smaller penalty) stealing from the back or side of someone, but the Sneak skill does nothing. Item size (which is not the same as weight) is a factor unless you have the Pickpocket perk. Regardless of your skill level you can use Steal to see what humanoid critters are carrying, although you won't see items they're holding or items that they "produce" during the course of a quest.
If you manage to steal and/or plant an item two or more times in succession you gain an increasing amount of xp for each successful attempt: 10, 20, 30 and so on, meaning the total will be 10, 30, 60 and so on. This amount doesn't seem to be capped by your Steal skill level.
In most shops you can't use Steal on the shopkeeper because the wares are kept in an on- or offscreen container when you're not talking to the shopkeeper (Mrs Stapleton is one exception, though she normally keeps her books away). In the case of Beth, Mitch and Jake in the Hub, the stuff will appear on the body of the shopkeeper if you kill them.
You can plant items on people using Steal. You can use this feature to give equipment to your NPCs or kill people with explosives.
The three top perks:
- Awareness: Extremely useful. This should be your first perk.
- Bonus HtH Attacks: Wonderful for brawlers.
- Bonus Rate of Fire: In conjunction with Fast Shot this is so good. Well, it's good regardless.
Recommended perks (number of ranks in parentheses):
- Action Boy (3): Good for most characters. Depends on your current Action Points and what weapons you plan to use.
- Better Criticals: Yummy.
- Bonus Move (3): Replaces Action Boy for HtH characters, and arguably pretty useful for anyone.
- More Criticals (3): 5% isn't that much (10% would have been good). Still, better than in Fallout 2 since you'll never get Sniper.
- Slayer: The ultimate HtH perk (and unlike Sniper you don't need to make a LK roll). But, you probably won't get it in a normal game.
- Sniper: The sniper perk. The problem is you'll only get to use it at the very end of the game if at all.
Possibly useful but not crucial perks:
- Dodger (2): Protection is good.
- Quick Pockets (3): Like a restricted Action Boy available on level 3. In fact I think this version is more balanced than the one in Fallout 2.
- Tag!: Can be used on Energy Weapons late in the game for lots of skill points.
- Toughness (3): Protection is good (but spending char points on Endurance is not, so take Buffout if you want this).
Perks I rather doubt the usefulness of:
- Bonus HtH Damage (3): Should have been a lot more damage. Now you'll have to get all three levels to notice any difference. Note that this perk only adds to the maximum damage - that's only one point on average for each perk slot!
- Bonus Ranged Damage (2): Not nearly enough of a bonus unless you're using a Minigun.
- Explorer: Improves your chances of finding special encounters, which is good at low LK but seems a bit vague. Could have been OK at level 6.
- Lifegiver (2): Once you reach level 12 your maximum number of Hit Points won't be so important any more, and there aren't too many levels to go anyway.
- Pickpocket: Neat for thief characters, I suppose. But if you fail at stealing, won't you just quickload?
- Silent Death: Guess which one of this and Slayer you should choose at level 18. Then after eventually reaching level 21, you'd want to put skill points in Sneak to make one of your attacks do double damage? I laugh hard!
- Silent Running: If you must play a sneaking character I suppose this takes a lot of frustration out of playing, but doesn't it spoil the atmosphere? A convenience perk.
- Smooth Talker (3): The closest thing to Gain Intelligence in this game, but I'd start with a good IN instead.
- Strong Back (3): Carrying more stuff can't be wrong, but spending perks to do it is. Especially if you have an NPC.
Useless perks which should only be chosen if you have no other options (or really want to):
- Animal Friend: Well, how useful is this.
- Cult of Personality, Presence (3): The potential benefits of these perks are frighteningly small.
- Earlier Sequence (3): Not worth it.
- Educated (3), Master Thief, Medic, Mr. Fixit, Speaker: All these perks give you nothing but skill points. You don't need more skill points. You need perks. As for Educated, if you get it at level 6 and then level up ten times, you've gained 20 skill points. Over time. Some guide writers recommend it.
- Empathy: It seems like a great idea in theory, but this game simply isn't about choosing the dialogue options that keep other people happy.
- Faster Healing (3), Healer (3): Healing rate is never an issue.
- Flower Child: Convenient for a chem character. But using chems sucks.
- Fortune Finder, Master Trader: Money is not an issue. Fortune Finder is simply awful; Master Trader isn't actively bad, just strictly unnecessary.
- Friendly Foe: Noooo. This is free in Fallout 2, as of course it should be.
- Ghost: Like a skill point perk only you don't get the skill points!
- Heave Ho!: Strictly for grenade chums, and exceptionally marginal even so.
- Mental Block: There's no need for this at all.
- Mutate!: Don't waste a perk changing traits in mid-game instead of choosing right to begin with. (Well, it would be OK to change Finesse into Fast Shot at level 21 after getting Sniper and having a high LK, but if you get to that point you're not playing a regular game anyway.)
- Mysterious Stranger: Utterly useless.
- Night Vision (3): Situational, and doesn't do much. Increase your weapon skill instead, or even pick Sharpshooter.
- Pathfinder (2): Time is not an issue... er, well, maybe it is, but not this important!
- Rad Resistance (3), Snakeater: Poison and radiation aren't common enough, or difficult enough to handle, to necessitate these small bonuses.
- Ranger (3): Random encounters aren't that bothersome.
- Scout: Pointless.
- Scrounger: You don't need this.
- Sharpshooter (2): Effectively just a minimal skill increase for ranged attacks. Raise your preferred weapon skill instead and use the perk for something special.
- Survivalist (3): Look! If you take all three levels of this perk it will make it virtually impossible for you to get caught in a rock slide when travelling and get hit for 2 points of damage! It is a must!
- Swift Learner (3): This helps you gain levels. What's the primary purpose of gaining levels? To get perks. So why use perks to gain more levels?
If you don't have the stats to meet the requirements of a perk you can in some cases use drugs to raise them temporarily and get the perk (it took me several games to realize this!), but this does not work with perks that have a Luck requirement, for instance. Check out the chems in the Items section for details. This is made easier by the fact that unlike in Fallout 2 you can reap the effects of any number of doses at once. Also remember you must spend each perk before earning a new one.
When you pick a skill point perk (other than Tag!) you can redistribute points only to the extent that you have previously raised that skill by investing skill points, reading books or getting one-shot bonuses.
And now for some stuff on radiation, which does play a small part in the Fallout world. The only prominent source of radiation is the dreaded Glow. Whenever you get a huge dose all at once, the message window says "You have received a large dose of radiation."
As far as I can tell radiation damage works like this: some time after you absorb a dose of radiation, you'll get one of the messages listed below, and you may temporarily lose stat points, Healing Rate and current Hit Points. The severity of the "attack" depends on your total rem count, but also on the amount of recent radiation that triggered the message. After 7 days, your stats will return to normal. A little confusingly, this is signalled by another message identical to the first one. If you absorb more radiation in the meanwhile, your current penalty may be replaced by a more severe one.
Here's a list of the penalties you may suffer. The rads figures are rough approximations.
|>300||"vomiting does not stop"||-3||-1||-1|
|>450||"hair is falling out"||-5||-5||-2||-1||-2|
|>600||"skin is falling off"||-10||-15||-4||-3||-3||-3||-1||-5|
You will expire from your condition if any of these stats except for Healing Rate (including CH) drops to 0 or below. This is checked only at the moment when they are lowered, so you may be able to use drugs to stay alive. Assuming you don't die in this manner, you can live with any kind of rem count and still run around with no penalty whatsoever. From what I can tell, there is never any permanent damage resulting from radiation.