Fallout: Character System

By Shamus Posted Friday Jan 25, 2008

Filed under: Game Reviews 71 comments

The Fallout character screen.
The Fallout character screen.
The discussion on Eschalon’s character system was pretty interesting. Several people mentioned other game systems, some with numerous attributes that define your character, and some with very few. Opinions ranged from “you should only need mind / body / spirit” to “let’s track every possible aspect of your being using linked stats and floating-point numbers”.

Of all the (computer) RPG’s I’ve played over the years, my favorite character progression system is still the one found in the 1997 classic Fallout. Why I love this system:

It’s a classless system. You can be a “rogue” or a “melee fighter” or a “gunslinger”, but the particulars of doing so are up to you. You aren’t locked into choices where being good at fighting makes you bad at conversation, or being good at stealth implies you want to steal stuff. Being classless means it’s skill-based. When you level up, your skills improve, not the base attributes. I never liked games where you can become “smarter” or “more charismatic” by fighting and leveling up. Leveling up shouldn’t change your core attributes, (or at least, not by much) it should simply allow you to better use what you were born with.

You’re so SPECIAL.
You’re so SPECIAL.
There are seven core attributes in the game: Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck, which spell SPECIAL. That’s clever and makes them easy to remember. Seven is a lot of attributes, but they are clearly delineated and easy to understand. There aren’t any ambiguous stats, or stats which overlap. Nebulous, personality-driven concepts like wisdom are left off the list entirely. I’ve always disliked games where things which should be emergent during roleplaying end up assigned a hard numerical value. How “wise” or “foolish” I am should be determined by the choices I make in the game, not my character sheet.

Every attribute is meaningful for every character, and there aren’t any obvious “dump stats”. Creating a character is a matter of balancing tradeoffs, not min-maxing the crap out of your stats. You can if you want, but you will regret that 3 charisma or 2 intelligence before you get very far.

The list of in-game skills.
The list of in-game skills.
The skills aren’t quite as well-devised as the attributes. There is a large list of skills in the game (top right region) and you can pick any three to be “tag” skills. When you level up, you get a few points to spread around, raising any skills you like. Tag skills go up faster, but you can distribute the points wherever you need.

First aid and doctor skills overlap far too much. (How could I be a master doctor and yet be inept at first aid?) Likewise, the division of weapons into six different categories seems needless, and doesn’t really lead to any interesting choices in the game. “Bare handed” and “melee combat” should really have been merged into a single skill. Also, in all my many trips through the world of Fallout, I’ve never put points into thrown weapons. For the price of one grenade you can buy enough bullets to kill a dozen foes. Grenades aren’t really helpful until you sink a lot of precious skill points into them, and they are useless if a foe is right in your face – which happens pretty often. If your skills are low, you risk hurting allies or yourself.

Steal is a neat idea, but the majority of the people in the game don’t have much worth stealing. Gambling is also a neat idea, and at higher levels you can use your master gambling skills to make good money, but it’s probably faster and more useful to just put those same points into barter. Also, I don’t know how being “skilled” can help at roulette / craps, which is what most of the gambling dens in the game seem to feature. It does help, but it shouldn’t, from a realism / simulation standpoint.

Nitpicks aside, the skill system is still rewarding. Speech is genuinely useful, and neglecting this skill will eliminate a lot of interesting in-game opportunities. It’s even possible to win the game via dialog (instead of fighting the final boss) if you have the intelligence and speech skill to convince him his plans are fatally flawed.

This is the list of optional traits. You can pick any two of these at the start of the game.  Every three levels, you’ll be offered a list of perks to choose from. I’ve been through this game a lot of times, and I’ve still never seen them all.
This is the list of optional traits. You can pick any two of these at the start of the game. Every three levels, you’ll be offered a list of perks to choose from. I’ve been through this game a lot of times, and I’ve still never seen them all.
This is enough to make a great system, but it also has “perks” which your character can acquire, which roughly correlate to “feats” in D&D. Every three levels you get to pick a new perk. These are fun abilities that let you further customize your character as he or she develops. It adds a nice bit of spice to an already fun system, and really encourages you to replay the game with different character designs in order to check out the roads not taken your first time through.

The list of available perks changes based on your attributes. So, if your agility is high enough you might be offered a perk that lets you move more spaces during your combat turn, or if your intelligence is high enough you could get one that will aid you in using B.S. to get your way in conversations.

It’s an interesting, varied, robust, well-balanced system. I doubt we’ll ever see its like again. Bethesda is coming out with a new Fallout title. They’re keeping the SPECIAL system, but moving the combat to real-time. Since a great deal of the original system was built around turn-based combat using “action points”, a lot of the usefulness of the original attributes and perks will be lost. But hey, who needs depth and gameplay when you have OMG LOOKIT THE PRETTY PIXULS SWEET GRAFIX!!!!!!111!!


(To be fair, a turn-based game would be a fantastic gamble for them, while “Oblivion, but in a post-nuclear wasteland” is pretty much a slam-dunk. It’s not their fault my favorite gameplay mechanics are unpopular. Executive Producer Todd Howard is taking the game very seriously. He knows the game has big shoes to fill. Turn based or not, I know I’ll buy the game if they don’t put the thing out of my reach with outrageous system specs.)

A bit of frivolity below the fold.


This is a novelty character I’m playing with. I tried to design a character as much like myself as possible. My IN and CH scores shouldn’t be quite that high, but the game makes you spend all your character points. Putting the points into IN and CH felt more honest than putting them into, say ST or EN. Maybe there is a hack out there that will let me nerf my scores down to where they should be.

I want to try to beat the game like this, although even with my inflated scores above it would be pretty challenging.


From The Archives:

71 thoughts on “Fallout: Character System

  1. Phlux says:

    I would like a system where “nature vs nurture” is accounted for. Certainly it doesn’t make any sense for your “intelligence” to improve dramatically over the course of a game, nor should Charisma, but I see no reason that endurance, strength, and others should not be able to progress naturally.

    That said, it’s tough to build a non-convoluted character system around that idea. You end up with a 3-4 tier structure that is probably not terribly intuitive.

    1. Michael says:

      To be honest, the only thing that can’t be improved upon is probably intelligence and luck in real life. Charisma can be taugh, although it’s not easy.

  2. Chilango2 says:

    You can always use a save game editor to adjust your stats downward.

    I started doing that after I’d played the game a number of times and I wanted to see what kind of interesting things you could do with the system as you stretched it into its frontiers.

  3. pulse says:

    Fallout was definitely a great game, and the SPECIAL system was a big part of that. I was really looking forward to seeing how it would work in the fantasy setting of Torn.

    About the gambling skill vs realism issue, it’s worth noting that the Fallout games kept implying that some people really had spiritual or supernatural abilities. It could be that a skilled gambler gains some degree of precognition, presumably specialized on roulette and slot machines since the skill doesn’t help with much else.

  4. Ryan says:

    Endurance is the closest thing to a dump stat, throughout the entire FO series (including Tactics, which about 6 people, including myself, love). The amount of HP and resistance you can gain/lose through adjusting Endurance doesn’t end up being that meaningful in the long run.

    Also, there are plenty of editors for Fallout. I recommend FALCHE (Fallout Character Editor).

  5. Nilus says:

    I recommend playing with the editors just to see the perks that were never actually implemented in the game. I seem to recall a few in Fallout(and a lot more in Fallout 2) that you could never actual get in the game but you could get using an editor.

  6. Roam says:

    Ehh, I’m still rather sceptical about Fallout 3, tbh. I never liked Oblivion much, it felt shallow while playing it.

    I wish they could just… you know, stick to the original style, while allowing for enough room for creative freedom. Obviously the guys who are producing it want to challenge themselves a tad as well, and a direct copy of Fallout 2 in a new graphical style would be pretty complacent.

    But.. Metroid Prime proved that it’s very possible to introduce a completely new game that stays true to its roots while offering something previously unheard of.

    I hope Fallout 3 can achieve that too.

  7. gahaz says:

    The new Fallout is going to be alot different from Oblivion. Go read all you can. It is going to be first-person and realtime, but you can pause the action, strategicly aim and choose shots (Like the old called-shot from the original) so they aren’t just draping Fallout clothes on Oblivion. I can hope anyway.

  8. Jeff says:

    You can if you want, but you will regret that 3 charisma or 2 intelligence before you get very far.

    Actually, I don’t. One of my absolute favorite Fallout builds is a hand-to-hand/stealth with 1 charisma. (Mostly because my other favorite build is a speaker/techie, and gameplay for the two characters is so different.)

  9. Colin R Lacey says:

    I case no one’s mentioned it yet Shamus, outragous in the 12th paragraph should be outrageous.

  10. Roy says:

    I absolutely love love love Fallout. Like you, I never understood why First Aid and Doctor were seperate, but the dvision of weapons never really bothered me, although I wouldn’t have been bothered if the breakdown was a little different- guns, explosives, energy, hand-to-hand maybe? I actually really enjoyed using the grenades- the ability to do damage to multiple targets using the more powerful grenades was really nice- particularly using the EMP grenades.

    One thing that I don’t think you mentioned that is worth noting is that the Optional Traits are different from Perks. All of the optional traits except for Bloody Mess give you a benefit, but come with a cost, which I thought was pretty awesome.

    “Certainly it doesn't make any sense for your “intelligence” to improve dramatically over the course of a game, nor should Charisma, but I see no reason that endurance, strength, and others should not be able to progress naturally.”

    See, I’m not sure I agree with that- it makes as much (or as little) sense to me for intelligence or Charisma to increase as it does Strength or Endurance. One of the biggest things that should determine whether those stats change is going to be time. If a campaign takes a relatively short ammount of time, you shouldn’t expect to see changes in any stats- strength doesn’t change over night- even if you’re making a concentrated effort to build muscle and increase your strength, it still takes a decent time to show marked change. By the same token, intelligence and charisma aren’t static, either. If I’m making an effort to learn more or making an effort to challange my brain in new ways- studying logic or critical thinking, etc- I’m going to show an improvement in intelligence, but that takes time. That’s why I generally favor systems that show skill changes, not stat changes.

  11. Zaghadka says:

    Since it’s Bethesda, I’m going to assume that no one can currently own the machine that will properly run Fallout 3. I can only hope it scales back nicely.

    More likely, they’ll make high polygon “rust” that will cripple the hottest video cards, like they did with the grass in Oblivion, and someone will have to make a mod to cut the polygon count down to something sane.

    The only thing we cheapskates have going for us here is that Bethesda actively encourages aggressive modding (e.g.: “Oldblivion”). Good luck.

  12. Downtym says:

    My favorite memories of Fallout were the Bloody Mess trait (Don’t leave home without it!) and working my way through the game by killing everyone that could be killed.

    See, what happened is that I was playing Fallout and I was having a blast. Then I got to Junktown. Upon entering Junktown an NPC announced, “We don’t allow weapons here!” Quickly remembering that I had a gun armed because of wandering bandits, I put the gun up into my inventory (Thus “disarming” myself). I expected the game to allow me to continue on peacefully, but instead the NPC drew a shotgun and took a shot at me. Figuring that this was an impolite thing for him to do to a stranger, I quickly drew my gun back out and blew the guard off his feet.

    What followed next can only be described as “Hilarious”. In the lexicon of MMORPG, what happened is that the town “Dumped” onto me. Every NPC with a weapon – and even some without – starting run at me with hate and vengeance. And I proceeded to mow them all down. After spending an hour or two “Cleansing the town”, I began looting. What followed was the revelation that killing the NPC’s netted me an awful lot of incredibly useful items; stimulants, ammo, guns, knives, money, armor, food, you name it and I found it in the newly christened ghost town. Even better, because the game kept track of object location as you wandered afield, I was able to stuff all the items I couldn’t carry at the moment into a refrigerator and use that as my “Bank” for the rest of the game.

    As the game progressed, I found myself cake walking through because of the incredible fortune I had in stumbling into a well stocked town full of disposable NPC’s. I quickly took on a Mad Max persona theorizing that anything could be taken if you killed the person holding what you wanted. By the time I got to the end of Fallout, I was loaded out like a one man battalion and the fights were actually anticlimactic.

    I kind of wish there had been a “You have amassed such a huge amount of wealth and weaponry that you become king of a large portion of territory” ending to Fallout. Especially since I carved my way through the game with any weapon that wasn’t bolted down to the floor.

  13. Jeff says:

    You should have just dumped the points into Luck, Shamus. Look at y(our) lifestyle compared to the World Population. Sure, some is because we’re this or that, but mainly it’s because we were lucky enough not to be born into poverty or a developing country.

    I don’t mind Fallout The FPS, so long as by the time I’m decked out with plasma rifles and Advanced Power Armor Mk 2, the random bandits and tribals aren’t all wielding miniguns with Advanced Power Armor either. Stupid Oblivion’s “running in place” level progression.

  14. Shishberg says:

    What’s a TENHNGK?

  15. Felblood says:

    If you gents are still looking for a game that allows you to just abandon the plot and do your own thing, I have to recommend Gearhead Arena 1.100.

    Those among you with an aversion to ASCII art should hunt down the SDL version. You really do see a bit more that way, anyway.

    The thing about the game that struck me the most was that the plot was randomly selected. When you start your game you are treated to one of several opening story texts that explains how your character arrived in the starting town.

    Some of these plots are a bit more “railroading” than others in that if you try to ignore them bounty hunters will come after you with giant robots and poisoned swords, but if you’re willing to accept the occasional assassination attempt by a crazed weapon smuggler who occasionally sends you hate e-mails you can get yourself a comfortable job as a celebrity arena gladiator or a corporate executive and just let the world slide into oblivion or let your murdered family go unavenged or whatever plot you happened to roll go unresolved.

  16. Kennet says:

    Even though I have never gotten around to really play the first 2 fallout games (shame on me, i know) i did really enjoy the setting and mood of it. I also played Tactics multiplayer quite a bit with my brother which I found very entertaining.
    So when Bethesda announced Fallout 3 as a FPS/RPG thingamabob, I was quite skeptical. But after having played Mass Effect for about 10 minutes and loving it, I am willing to give Fallout 3 the benefit of the doubt until I see more.

    (Mass Effect and Fallout looks similar on the surface to me, gameplay-wise, so I am pretending that I can compare them a bit)

  17. Ryan says:

    Felblood: I’m definitely going to check out Gearhead Arena. That’s totally a new title to me, and I love roguelikes!


  18. GAZZA says:

    I wonder if you even really need attributes.

    Attributes seem to serve two purposes in most games. I’ll use D&D3.5e as an example, but it’s not the only one (the WW Storyteller system is functionally similar, so is Hero System, and so on).

    The first use is as a skill modifier. We can easily eliminate them there – just use the skills directly. What about the idea that smart people are good at lots of skills, you ask? Well, that ties in to the second use…

    The second use is as some sort of meta modifier. Strength gives you a bonus to hit and damage; Intelligence gives you more skill points and makes your spells harder to resist, and so forth. D&D3e has a feat system that could easily cover all of that. You could have a feat such as “Intelligent” that gave you a +1 to all knowledge skills or something. “Strong” that gave a +2 to hit and damage in melee combat. You might have to chain some of these (“Strong” for +1, “Mighty” for +2 prereq “Strong”, and so on) for balance purposes, but it’s definitely workable.

  19. Old Man Matt says:

    I really enjoyed those Fallout Games.

    No Mutants Allowed has a lot of mods and editors that can really add something to these old classics.

    The Fallout 2 Restoration Project looks particularly interesting. It mainly focuses on cut or unfinished content that didn’t make it into the game.

    MIB88’s Megamod combines a lot of good mods to work together.

  20. Matis says:

    Hi Shamus,

    I thought your comment about doctor and 1st aid skills may be…(shudder)… incorrect. I was a soldier & FF/paramedic in my previous life and now am a physician. They are really different skill sets, unless you are a trauma surgeon or ER doc. So I can see this as plausible. I may have to go look for this game now and find out what all the rave is about.

  21. Matis says:


    I just saw my gravatar for the first time…. It reminds me of how I use to feel after a late night out and coming in at 0600 the next morning for PT. Ugh.

  22. Corsair says:

    Yeah, but Matis, Doctor was, if I remember correctly, for fixing stuff like broken bones while First Aid restored Hit Points which are more analogous to bullet wounds and other fleshy injuries. I can’t imagine First Aid training for anyone doesn’t include the requisite knowledge of how to set a bone or the doctor knowledge how to properly suture wounds closed.

  23. Ellimystic says:

    Still though, it’s one thing to carefully set a fractured femur under calm, well-lit conditions when everything’s OK, and it’s another thing altogether to quickly close up a gushing wound, accepting the fact that you’re going to have to do a slapdash job because if you don’t the guy’s gonna be dead, without sedatives or painkillers, using a half-empty first aid kit that you don’t get to sterilize.

  24. Joshua says:

    Gaza, you and I are on the same page. Playing most MMOs now doesn’t let you adjust your stats, or if so, adjust them very little. After all, they figure, aren’t most “tanks” going to end up looking the same anyways? While occasionally, you’ll get a scrawny fighter with an incredible IQ, most of the time characters are relatively cookie-cutter. So, you could accomplish the same thing by just having your stats based off your class and level, and have feats/merits/flaws like “strong”, or “crafty”, or something. I also agree with Shamus that Wisdom shouldn’t be a character score. Your actions should determine whether you are wise or not, not a number.

    I never played the Fallout games, but I played the original Wastelands game they were based on. Now THAT was ahead of its time.

  25. Smileyfax says:

    I’m too busy laughing my ass off to regret having an Intelligence of 2 in a Fallout game. Ah, if only more RPGs actually pursued ‘dumb’ dialogue options.

    I’m seriously looking forward to Fallout 3. All the folks despising the game because it isn’t using the original Fallout engine, though, that gives me heartburn.

  26. Shinjin says:

    Curse you, Shamus. I periodically revisit Fallout 1/2, though I have yet to actually finish either one. Now I have the urge to give it another go, but my gaming rig is down :(

  27. Ryan says:

    I have never been able to finish a game of fallout. It’s just to massive in scope than in actual size. SO many things barrage me and little time to react. I have killed whole towns and been killed the first time I have stepped out of the vault. I just haven’t found my niche in the game, but I will never stop playing it. It has that much of a hold on me. One game that I have picked up recently that I never got into before was Arcanum, of steamworks and magick obscura. It has the player starting off with little to customize and uses a point buy approach to stats and skills using the same points for both.

  28. lxs says:

    Your comment system ate my post :(

    Forgot the antispam word, somehow Firefox failed to save it in Back history and it wasn’t even in the form vars of the next page.

    Maybe you could change the failure page so it shows the comment? Pretty please?

  29. Vegedus says:

    Fallout is one of those RPG classics I’ve missed, and that I know I’ll have to play at some point. This entices me further.

  30. Jeff says:

    That would be a nice feature indeed…

  31. Timo says:

    I love Fallout, the first part that is. I remember buying it ages ago and practically drewl all over the box because it said I could actually mutulate enemies. When at home, I opened the box and this cool survival guide drops out of it. When my parents finally got me to bed, I would hide under my blankets and read what I should do when a nucleair attack hit. Those good ol’ days…

    Recently when cleaning out my old room, I rediscovered my fallout cd (yeah, not a DVD or anything) and I couldn’t resist the urge to see if it would work on my new computer. Had a laugh then, cause it had several sizes to install, including HUMUNGOUS (647 MB). Turned out I didnt need the cd to play, so I installed it on my brand new laptop and now, when I’m traveling by train, I can play Fallout!!!

  32. Daemian_Lucifer says:


    “I wonder if you even really need attributes.

    Attributes seem to serve two purposes in most games. I'll use D&D3.5e as an example, but it's not the only one (the WW Storyteller system is functionally similar, so is Hero System, and so on).

    The first use is as a skill modifier. We can easily eliminate them there – just use the skills directly. What about the idea that smart people are good at lots of skills, you ask? Well, that ties in to the second use…

    The second use is as some sort of meta modifier. Strength gives you a bonus to hit and damage; Intelligence gives you more skill points and makes your spells harder to resist, and so forth. D&D3e has a feat system that could easily cover all of that. You could have a feat such as “Intelligent” that gave you a +1 to all knowledge skills or something. “Strong” that gave a +2 to hit and damage in melee combat. You might have to chain some of these (“Strong” for +1, “Mighty” for +2 prereq “Strong”, and so on) for balance purposes, but it's definitely workable.”

    You forgot the third(and IMO the most important)purpose:To replace those skills that you dont have.Imagine that you have a gunner that has no melee combat skill.What will you use when that guy gets in hand to hand bar fight?You surelly wont use his rifle skill.Without attributes,youd have to roll/assign points to all of the skills in the game,which is just too messy.

    And again,the opera prooves superior!*evil grin*

  33. Dreamer says:

    I’ve never liked that statistics are either set or extremely limited from their initial starting point. If I’m forty years old, that doesn’t stop me from training my low strength ‘score’ into something worth-while, even though I’m not going out and adventuring. Everybody has limits, though, and despite my training I’ll never be as strong as I would be if I started training when I was a wee lad. Skills should be the same way – Nothing should stop me from picking up some knowledge during a low point in my life.

    To add to that, I’ve never really liked the modern concept of ‘levels’ anyways, where you get to a point and choose your improvements. It’s a nice mile marker sometimes, and it certainly adds a nice view of one’s progression, but thinking that you have to reach a certain point just to become better at what you do is incredibly odd. I don’t turn around one day and I’m suddenly much more skilled at something: It’s a gradual thing.

    But that’s just me.

  34. ItsJetJaguar says:

    I don’t think that SPECIAL as a whole cannot work in real-time combat. AP is based on one stat, your agility. How do the other stats prevent real-time gameplay? And besides, is the primary gameplay element of the game combat anyway? Combat’s important, of course, but what about dialogue, characters, quests, and storyline? The player’s interaction with characters, the choices the player makes and their consequences, have nothing to do with whether the game is real-time or turn-based. Bethesda is combining real-time combat with a pause/targeted shots system that uses AP. If Bethesda is able to provide interesting characters, stats-based dialogue choices, an interesting story, multiple ways to complete quests and real consequences to the choices the player makes, and all of that is based on the character system, then doesn’t that make SPECIAL successful, even if the combat isn’t turn-based?
    By the way, deliberately using l337 speak to make something sound stupid makes YOU sound stupid. Rise above the temptation.

  35. Greg says:

    That looks like the second character I tried to beat the game with :P Well I had doctor instead of first aid, but almost. It’s not as bad as it looks, but the first level is a bit of a nightmare and you need to avoid the optional combat quests till you’ve got some allies who can handle the violence for you.

    I don’t think a switch to real time guarnatees that they’ll kill all that’s good about fallout. There’s a lot of anger and bitterness in the fan community about some things, but I figure we judge each game on its own merits without worrying about the rest of the series. It could be as good or better, if they get it exactly right. That seems unlikely, but I’m not willing to get behind claims that they’re whoring out to the graphics-monkeys just yet.

  36. Duffy says:

    Can’t add much more to the conversation, I love the Fallout games, so much that this topic has prompted me to reinstall and play them both again. Dam you Shamus. :-P

  37. Nate says:

    Damn. I missed out on these games the first time around, and now, after an hour or so of internet browsing, it seems like I might never get to play them. Does anyone have suggestions for finding a copy of Fallout 1&2, and Planescape:Torment, short of selling an arm and a leg?

  38. SimeSublime says:

    I notice that nobody else mentioned it. Was I the only person who played “Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader”? Black Isle made it shortly prior to going bust. It’s set in an alternate Earth past, wherein Richard the Lionhearted accidentally opened a rift allowing magic to return to the world, and utilizes a version of the SPECIAL ruleset modified for a fantasy setting (So things like gun and science skills are removed, and replaced by swords and sorcery skills). The combat is more real-time(though, unlike Baldur’s Gate, you can’t target things whilst the game is paused) but the character building is mostly the same. The first half of the game is utterly brilliant and I highly recommended it. They’ve obviously gone to a lot of trouble with the back story. Sadly, about the time you leave Barcelona the game turns to utter crap, which I’m guessing is the cause of it’s lacklustre acclaim. But if you see it in the bargain bin, do yourself a favour and pick it up. You’ll get at least half an awesome game.

  39. CarbonCopy says:

    What most people don’t know about the Fallout series is that the basic “rules” system that it uses is loosely based on a paper & pencil RPG system called GURPS (Generic Universal RolePlaying System).

    If you like how the Fallout “rules” work and play paper & pencil RPGs, give GURPS a try with your gaming friends.

  40. Greg says:

    I’d be great if forgetting to type the antispam word didn’t delete your whole post. Nevermind. Can’t be bothered with all that again:

    Agree about lionheart.
    Add that it’s quicker to restart after Barcelona than play a noncombat character.
    Complain about how long healing took and point out I read two novels while supposedly playing a game.

  41. Krey says:

    Turn based or not, I know I'll buy the game if they don't put the thing out of my reach with outrageous system specs.

    Shame on you.
    Virtually everything I hear about the game suggests that it has little beyond the name in common with Fallout, and that Todd Howard’s idea of brilliant humour is coarse language, sexual innuendo and exploding body parts.

  42. James says:

    After Oblivion and the Eldar Scrolls franchise, Bethesda has become a major name in RPG elements, and now that it has taken over the task of making Fallout 3, it was a given that there would be an outcry, for the holy cow that it Fallout is widely loved, and Bethesda would be up against the wall if it was just an Oblivion clone.

    I appreciate your point about the battle system, but times are a-changing. Even the steadfast Final Fantasy series, which for over a decade was one of the great RPG titans, is now no longer turn-based. Stat-based, d20 and turn-based systems are now becoming a rare breed, and as now many studios are wishing to appeal to the masses in the cut-throat world of computer gaming, and are forced to change their time-honoured traditions.

    Changing Fallout 3 from a turn-based fighter to a real-time action fighter was always going to happen. The reasons it was originaly turn-based were because of the limitayions of readily availible computing power at the time, and the trends of the era. Now people wish to have more-combat orintated games, and wish for faster action.

    Becoming a shooter was, in fact, quite inevitable. For, out of the combat-based skills, half of them were gun-based. Hacking seems to be quite intergrated, in a sort of Bioshock sense, and although Speech may not be as good nor as important it was in the first game, for I doubt that they will be a Speech-based ending, it will open up dialogue choices, which is always useful. Due to the vastness of the landscape, and the many factions that exist there, Speech will be ever useful in the game.

    This is not another Oblivion. Oblivion had one main quest with one main quest ending, Fallout 3 does not seem to. It appears to be much more free-roaming, chooses-your-own-destiny type, and it said to have the whole spectrum of ending, from Good to Evil, and all the Greys in between.

    Personally, I think that the change, although regretable, will bring something new into the series, and I, personally, welcome it.

  43. irish_pirate says:

    Yes, I agree that the Special system was a great one. I would like to add that with each stat, there was one, two, or three atributes that added to it. small arms was agility+perception + some number (can’t remember which) / by some %. Outdorsman was perception+intelligence. What I really liked about the system is that each of the stats (except maybe charisma and luck, in practice those stats are too random anyways) you could determine of your own self stats. In this system, each skill would be 0+some random number, without any stats. They start off some stats higher than others (such as unarmed), presumably because those skills are easier to practice than others (say, traps)

  44. Bryan says:

    Fallout was, for most of its development period, actually supposed to be GURPS based.
    It wasn’t until later in development, that the deal with Steve Jackson games fell through, I haven’t the least idea why, and so… a few modifications were made, and it was no longer GURPS-based.

  45. Scourge says:

    gambling.. ha in Falout 2 was it very useful, dump it to 120% and get gambling and keep the key pressed and you’ll be rich in minutes because you win 2/3 games and get a lot of money. :P So easy to get 2 billion in the first hour of gaming.

    Anyways, to the stats, they gave small boosts to certain skills, like agility to small arms. So your stats decided how good you were at the beginning with some skills, you still could change how you want though ^^ (I always went with 10 agility though. The perfect thing, especially in fallout 1 where I could get 5 attacks in one round with my modified plasma rifle!)

    To fallout 3: Well, I hope, I really really hope, bethesda doesn’t screws fallout up because taht wouà¶ld be such a shame. I still own falout 1 and 2 and still play them and a fallout would make a very nice edition. I also just hope that the system reqs are not to high (probably they are however)
    And I don’t think that falout 1 and 2 were made turn absed because it would be to troublesome for the computers but mainly for the players.

    Imagine following:
    Random encounter!
    6 thugs with pistols shoot at you at the same time whià¶le you can only shoot at one of them.
    Then they move and you ahve trouble following them with the mouse.

    No, I doubt it was because the pcs couldn’t handle it it was mainly for the convenience of the players, for i know i wouldn’t ahve liked it if it would ahve been so hectic (Just like it Fallout tactics, which also was a very very very bad clone of it. I just hope beth doesn’t takes this one as an example (Big hooray for the unneccesary speech skill.))

  46. Andrichus says:

    i have a major issue with people’s use of the english language here. wisdom is not weather you are stupid enough to walk up to a deathclaw with a pea shooter and a stick of chewing gum, it is the measure of knowledge and it’s aplication, whereas intelligence is the measure of information processing.
    also, as a ‘role-playing geek’ by my own standards i find it frustating when people downplay a system because its well written. it is not the setting that makes fallout, thats just the icing on the cake. as a serious game the fallout series’s success is due to its detailed yet simple system. i challenge anyone to write a system which is symultaniously quick, easy and generates a multi layer character almost from the outset of play (old W W, is the master system, in my view). admittedly, i think there is scope for a simplicity and detail devide (d d/advanced d d, for example) in the fallout series, more traits, trade offs for extra perks, etc.
    i write my own games. when you see something that can be altered for the better write your own version, or post on a site where people can pool ideas for rule improvements…
    i forget what else i was going to rant about.
    so hasta luego.

  47. krellen says:

    Shamus, I hate to tell you this, but Fallout 3 is a myth, like Spore or Ron Perlman.

    And James? No. Just no. Fallout was a turn-based game because the designers wanted a turn-based game. It had nothing remotely to do with technical or generational limitations. When did Wolfenstein 3D come out? When did Fallout come out?

    How on earth can people convince themselves that something is turn-based because it’s old? The choice between turn-based and real-time have nothing at all to do with technical limitations. Either way it’s a simple design choice.

  48. Robel says:

    Word on that.

  49. Andrichus says:

    fallout 3 is not a myth.
    but it will not be turn based and therefore my expectations are conciderably lowered (just hoping there will be some kind of turn based option, or something. even if its barely usable).
    bethesda saying it will not be an fps, is simply a lie by the looks. no matter how much role-playing content you put into it, it is still first person, and a shooter. which was ok for the elderscrolls series, and vampire bloodlines, it’s like a quirk, detracts from practicalities and pleasure of play, but makes the game stand out. in fallout, things are done the traditional way.
    the propper way.
    fallout fps should be a spinoff that might be cool, but to call it fallout 3 makes it a definite part of the series. tactics was a spinoff, not a part of the series, good plan, not an rpg, a squad based fighting game with an rpg system, and an rpg look. if that is any less acknowledged than fallout 3, as a geek, it is my right and duty to send hate mail to bethesda.
    like many people who enjoy c+c, i can hold my head high and say i will never acknowledge renegade as a part of the series. but if it was call tiberian sun two, i would not have bothered playing the games that followed, i can see something like that happening with fallout.
    i wish i could make a more coherent argument here, rather than talking a screen filling load of crap.

    incidentally, scourge, play tactics, right, but this time turn the turn based option on, now, see? simple.

  50. ryanlb says:

    Great, now I gotta go buy Fallout.

  51. Garfunkel says:


    quit being Bethsoft fanboy. Seriously. The original Fallout-programmers have often stated that even if they could have had made it 3D-FPS, they still would have made it isometric and turn-based. TB just allows more tactical options. Not like it was the flavour of the month back then – we already had Ultima Underworld’s and System Shock. Bethesda is doing 3D FPS “Oblivion with Guns” because they have to make a huge success with Fallout. And they figure that to hit it big they need to airbrush the game to death, dumpen it to the level of wheel of fortune and water it down for the “acclaimed” mass audiences. Still, why not just make “Generic PA shooter with skills” instead of Fallout?

    The “pause and target” mode will be using your action points decided by your agility. But, in the vain hope of reaching the Halo-fratboys-crowd, you can run out of action points and still keep shooting – you just can’t use “assisted targeting” anymore!

    And let’s not get into the “drinking water from an old toilet bowl replenishes your health” -part… or the Hand-Held Nuke Catapult… or the Nuclear-Powered cars on every streetcorner that you can blow up – without killing yourself… Or the “I escaped from Doom3” supermutants… Or the Brotherhood of Steel-guys who somehow abandoned their religious zeal and turned into generic npc macho soldiers patting each other on the back, spewing the same crap dialog that every cheesy war-movie ever had? The list goes on and on…

    On Special:

    Both First Aid and Doctor heal hitpoints. Doctor heals more than FA. You unfortunately don’t get “bleeding” wounds so there is no real need for FA-skill at all. Doctor also helps you repair crippled limbs and eyes which FA does not. So yeah, they overlap quite badly. Though it was nice that there was a separate skill-boosting item for both skills. FA-kit and Doctor’s bag. But then they had a skill-boosting item for every non-combat skill, except maybe gambling.

    Finally – folks should try Arcanum as was previously mentioned. It uses a modified SPECIAL-system, happen in a refreshing different steampunk world and is quite open ended. It’s not Fallout or Planescape: Torment but it’s quite good, especially now that the fanprojects have finally squashed the last bugs.

    Ps. NMA links here now – but great reading your other posts too Shamus, interesting topics!

  52. Krey says:

    I am compelled to ask the obvious: How ignorant does someone have to be to attribute turnbased combat to available computing power?

    There were plenty of games, even RPGs, using realtime combat long before Fallout’s release.
    In fact, I would’ve preferred Legend using turnbased combat.

  53. Scourge says:

    To Andrichus: Did that too but still, it wasn’t so great, not so hectic but I kinda don’t like the part of having to control a whole group of 6 people. if they’d have some kind of ai, like in Fallout 1 or 2 would that be ok, but the micomanagement of all six of them, using their turnswisely using their skills wisely, equipping them, etc, etc. That is just to much.
    Oh and also the skill system was lousy in that part. I mean, come on. What use had speech? what use had gambling? What use had science? There was nothing you could do with those skills. The most important parts were Small arms (For the ebginning), energy weapons (For the last part of the game) and maybe melee or another skill of your choice.

  54. Daemian_Lucifer says:


    So,youre part of the developing team on fallout 3 right?Since I dont remember there being any definite info about the dialog,nor the nuclear cars being everywhere(and with so much power to blow up),nor the water from the toilet part.In fact,nothing definite can be said about the game until it goes gold.

    Sure,I did my bashing of the “being developed” games a few times myself,but it never was “Oh,this games story is so awful!No matter I dont know how it goes,I know it sucks!”

    Anyway,I remember a nice little game called deus ex.It is a FPS,yet it has more depth than some so called RPGs like diablo or ToEE or icewind dale.And it didnt even have leveling nor skills.So yes,this one still can turn out to be quite an awesome game(Im not confident about that,but I sure do hope it will be like that).


    Your right and duty to send hatemail?!?!Sorry,are you the creator of the original fallout idea?Are you the owner of the brand?”Coca-cola?Yes,the thing is I bought your new drink and its flavour doesnt suit me,so I have every right to threaten you with extreme violence.You marketed it as being a soft drink,but thats a lie since the bottle is very hard,and it tastes like food,not drink.Youre a bunch of liars!”

  55. Scourge says:

    To bad that Deus Ex had a leveling system, with various skills and XP you could invest into those to increase their effictiveness.
    But i gotta agree on one thing, Diablo 2 is not really an Rpg. It is more an action RPG, but not truly what I woulddefine as an RPG.

  56. Daemian_Lucifer says:

    Oh,right.It was a while back.You had skills.I remembered the story and the augmentations but forgot about these.But still there were no levels.And your skill points were earned only through questing,even though it is a FPS.No points for killing tons of enemies.So it was more about role playing than most of role playing games.

  57. Miako says:

    check out rolemaster. defined ‘max stats’ but you start out with lower ones. and you can easily add ‘optional’ rules (they’re in the rulebooks) for non-level based learning.

    Someone said:
    strength doesn't change over night- even if you're making a concentrated effort to build muscle and increase your strength, it still takes a decent time to show marked change.

    Extreme mesomorphs do change their strength overnight. I’ve seen it happen. It gets on my nerves, as i go to fat in days and due to growing up in a smoking household, have no lung supply. but HIM? HE is sore once, and never again. I HATE it.

    Shamus, strength and intelligence are both things that can be trained. Strength is just as much coordination and application of strength as it is raw muscle. Intelligence is the ability to creatively integrate multiple areas of expertise to find the best or most appropriate solution.

  58. Matt T. says:

    I’m trying to play Fallout again (curse you Shamus!) but I need to find a way to get my video to work properly with the game, anyone know the program that emulates your Invidia card down to a lower card?

  59. Shamus says:

    Matt: I was able to get it running but setting the program to run in Win 95 emulation and in 256 colors. That did the trick. (Right-click on the Falloutw.exe and select “properties”.)

  60. Mutant_Fraffle says:

    I totally agree… Fallout’s character system has been the best ive played in years. Allthough it is limited in the sense that the whole character system is still EXP based.

    If you dig skill based systems, then you may appreciate the idea that using skills improves those particular skills alla-Oblivion-morrowind.

    Im sick of the “you must fight other beings to improve your character” standard. Just doing anything in a game should improve your character in some way. Until we get a perfect hybrid or im a lead game desginer… we’re all stuck with that old idea…

  61. hostile17 says:

    I bought Fallout more than 10 years ago and I played it maybe twice, this was because at the time I had a crappy computer. Then I shoved the disk into my software pile. Lately I have been checking out MMORPGs like DDO and WOW but none seem to have the feel and unique look of the game. I was startled to read that Fallout 2 soon followed. Has Fallout 3 been released, if not when? Interplay is no longer around but I guess they left some great game legacies. I found my old disk while doing some spring cleaning. Now I’ve installed the old game in my new badass computer and am going to give it a whirl!

  62. orbit says:

    Any chance someone would know where a rulebook with the SPECIAL system is, or at least some source with the ruleset made available for tabletop play?

  63. Q says:

    So… Did you beat the game with your real-life character?

  64. Illiterate says:

    @Orbit — it’s out there.

    one iteration: http://pnp.fallout.wikia.com/wiki/Chapter_I:_Introduction

    *found via web-surfing. I can’t endorse it in any way except to say that it appears to be what you’re asking for.

  65. william says:

    Shamus, I realise this is serious Blog necromancy, and You’ve probably finished playing through fallout as yourself. But my 2 cents would be this. ( I think your intelligence is accurate, and as for your charisma i’m not sure really, having never met you in person. You come across as very likeable in your posts though) however if you wanted them to be over, put those points into Luck. I’m not arguing that you haven’t had hardship in your life, but just being born into our middle class lifestyle, makes us massively more lucky than a lot of other people in the world.

  66. Claire says:

    LOL, blog necromancy. I can’t believe I haven’t encountered that phrase before now. It seems like something that would have been around for a while and caught on. If you came up with it yourself, kudos.

  67. GarfunkeL says:

    The new Fallout is going to be alot different from Oblivion

    Yeah, that turned out well, didn’t it? Too bad Shamus was completely right when he wrote that we’ll never see SPECIAL again. Beth just raped the system.

  68. acabaca says:

    “I never liked games where you can become “smarter” or “more charismatic” by fighting and leveling up. Leveling up shouldn't change your core attributes, (or at least, not by much) it should simply allow you to better use what you were born with.”

    1) That may be interesting from a gameplay point of view but it is not realistic. Increasing one’s raw strength, intellect, charisma, etc. in real life takes only simple practice and effort. Genes do put some kind of limits on this, but it’s ridiculous to claim that a person wouldn’t become significantly stronger by lifting weights, or smarter by exercising his brain.

    2) Fallout DOES let you become a better speaker by shooting people, and a better shooter by speaking. It still has the curse/feature of generic experience points.

    Also, while this problem isn’t built into the system (it could be solved with some rebalancing), Fallout is far from a dump stat free game. In 1, charisma was completely worthless. In 2, charisma was useful but luck became a waste of points. In both games, perception is pointless after about 6 points and even that is good only for qualifying for certain perks. Power armor makes strength past 6 useless and so on.

    Personally I like the idea of the system but it needs some streamlining and rebalancing. The only “hard-coded” part of it that annoys me is that it doesn’t have a separate stat for manual dexterity, so everybody whose hands don’t shake just has to be an acrobat too, and the “SPECIAL” initials make this difficult to correct. :(

  69. fallout_master says:

    after beating fallout 1 and 2 without using the character editors, i recently tried using character editors on a windows 2000 and the fallout 2 editor worked but falche1 did not. and now that i tried using my brand new computer, neither character editors for any of the fallout games work. the screen comes up, but where i should be able to pick my save game slot to edit, nothing shows up. does anyone know what the problem is??

  70. Max says:

    Hijacking old threads:
    I think the Fallout class system has had influence on other RPGs since then. A prominent example is the Gothic series, which actually used a similar system, while introducing it differently. You were a basic male with no speciality in anything and then you could learn your way into fighter, wizard or hunter class or even cross-class without problem.

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