Fallout the Role Playing Game: Review

Today’s review is a S.P.E.C.I.A.L. one for me.  I have been a fan of the Fallout series since the first incarnation back in 1997, and much like exposure to the FEV, I have witnessed this series mutating over time to incorporate interesting, and sometimes frustrating changes.  Truly, the only title I have not played in this Fallout series is the MMORPG Fallout 76, so I am well versed in the lore of this robust setting. Now zip up your Vault-Tec issued jumpsuit, and strap on a Pip-Boy 2000, because we are going back to the wasteland!

Setting

It is clear that this is a TTRPG created for anyone familiar with the already established series of games. However, for those of you coming in cold, Fallout is a strange beast, even for a post-apocalyptic setting. In short, the game takes place in the irradiated ruins of America a few hundred years after a global nuclear war. Fallout is part post-apocalyptic and part retro futuristic borrowing heavily from 1940/1950’s aesthetics, iconography, and science fiction.  Characters in Fallout are survivors who must navigate the dangerous, irradiated landscape along with the equally dangerous denizens who dwell within.

For fans of the series, this book takes the greatest inspiration from Fallout 4 & Fallout 76. All of the sections outlined above tend to focus on mechanics and setting related material from those specific titles. Fans of Fallout 1, 2, Tactics or New Vegas will notice some missing pieces.

Artwork and Layout

The Fallout the Role Playing Game book is striking from the front cover to the very end. All of the imagery, artwork, are reminiscent of the core games, and draw your eye to each section. It contains images for all the aspects you would want to see like equipment, locations, adversaries, and the like. As a fan of the series, I can tell that a great deal of effort went into the creation and layout of this book. On a side note, I especially enjoyed the sprinkling of Vault Boy images throughout.

Mechanics

Once again, Modiphius utilizes the 2D20 mechanic for the Fallout RPG. Unlike my review of Dishonored, Fallout seems to adapt the mechanics to that of the RPG in a noticeably more organic way. Any veteran of the core series will no doubt be able to pinpoint all of the areas where the two systems fused together. However, for those of you who are new to the 2D20 system, here is the quick and dirty summary:

For any skill check, players will roll 2D20 against their combined Attribute + Skill score to achieve a set number of successes. Anything that rolls under said score is considered a success, with a natural 1 counting as two successes. The player is able to purchase more D20s with action points, and it is through rolls that a player is able to generate more actions points or, in the case of rolling a natural 20, generate complications. 

If any complication is introduced, a handy complication range chart expresses the severity of said complication. Simply put, the riskier the action, the easier it will be to roll a complication and have the severity be increased. There are also rules for Opposed Tests, Assistance, and Group Tests which are fluid and easy to implement on the fly. 

As noted above, players are able to generate Action Points (AP) that serve as a catch all bonus mechanic. With AP players are able to add more D20s, take more actions, increase damage, reduce the time of a test, or obtain information. There is a set number of AP that the player can have, and the GM may also obtain AP to spend on NPCs as they see fit. As a typical game moves along the number of AP will flux wildly.

In addition to AP, every character has a LUCK stat that serves as a mechanical wildcard of sorts. With luck, a player is able to add details to a scene, use the luck score for a roll, interrupt turn order or re-roll certain dice. Much like AP, luck can regenerate over time, but usually after some sort of milestone.

Combat

As with most games combat is a little complicated, especially for the uninitiated. However, I should note that the 2D20 has not skimped on adaptation to the core Fallout mechanics from the videogames. During combat players are able to do everything you expect, and have the ability to determine a hit location! Combat in Fallout is brutal, and with the right combination of skills, luck and AP can dish out tremendous damage in a single turn. 

There are also rules for different types of damage effects that cover everything from spread damage to radiation!  Come on, now… you know it would not be a fallout game without radiation. Interestingly, radiation takes the Fallout 4 approach of reducing maximum HP instead of applying direct damage. The critical hit table also provides information about the mechanical penalties applied to certain areas of the body. Players with a blow to the head are going to suffer quite differently as opposed to the arm. In either case, players with critical damage will have to receive medical attention in order to fully recuperate.    

The rest of the core combat mechanics cover all forms of medical attention, consumables, long-term recovery, and exploration. The last part in particular is an addition that other games usually gloss over. However, in Fallout the environment can be just as deadly as a Radscorpion.

Character Creation

Every character in Fallout is made up of the following components:

S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Attributes – Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck.  The higher the number, the stronger the attribute

Skills – There are 17 skills in all covering everything from combat, to science, medicine and speech!

Tag Skills – This is an area of expertise in terms of skills and allows for an increased chance of rolling critical successes.

Derived Statistics – Initiative, Encumbrance, Damage Resistance, Defense, HP, and melee damage derive from a player’s SPECIAL attributes. 

Perks – Every player starts with one and they can provide any number of unique abilities that are tied directly to a certain attribute.  Character must meet certain prerequisites in order to obtain perks. This is a direct adaptation of the Perks from Fallout 4. 

Character Origin – Human is not the default in Fallout!  Players have the option of playing as a Brotherhood Initiate, Ghoul, Super Mutant, Mister Handy, Survivor, or Vault Dweller!  Each origin provides a unique bonus (or bonuses), that the others will not possess. 

Equipment – Interestingly, your characters origin will determine what starting equipment you have. Depending on the origin, a character may have only a few or several options for starting equipment. For instance, a Mr. Handy robot will have equipment (what is on each of the four arms) based on the original programming while a Super Mutant Brute will have equipment befitting its combat related focus.

Other Equipment

Truly, this book goes to great lengths in order to replicate the feel of a Fallout game. The expanded equipment section covers everything that a Fallout fan could love! Buying/selling, haggling, weapons modifications, caps & script, weapons galore, ammunition, armor, clothing, explosives, chems, food, books/magazines, robot programming, and so much more! 

This entire section will have any devout fan foaming at the mouth for all of the possibilities. With enough caps, you could create a raider with crazy mismatched armor, to an Enclave solider worthy of that X-01 suit. Honestly, I cannot give this section enough credit. This is a catalog of all things Fallout, and it is amazing!

Everything Else

The seven reaming chapters of the core rulebook cover a wide and often surprising selection of topics:

Survival – This section expands on the exploration rules in the early chapters including rules on how to stay alive, finding useful items and crafting items using workbenches. I see this section as an expansion for those players who want to build a base or community (Sanctuary anyone?). It has everything you would need for that aspect.

Corporations of Pre-war America – This chapter contains vital information about the most influential pre-war corporate entities that still linger in one aspect or another. Truly, the authors have done their homework on this one, as even I had forgotten some of the corporations listed. Not only will you find information about pre-war entities but will also include some adventure hooks as well. 

Vault-Tec – Perhaps the most influential company in Fallout lore, Vault-Tec was the company that, for better or worse, housed the survivors of the Great War. This chapter details everything you would want to know about the history along with a guide for creating your own vaults, or even exploring the ruins of others. They provide examples from previous titles (Vaults 111, etc.) and give inspiration for those who want to stray from the beaten path.

The Commonwealth – Since much of this book was inspired most heavily from Fallout 4, it is no wonder that the Commonwealth would have an entire section dedicated to it. For those who do not know, this is a guide to the ruins of Post-Apocalyptic Boston. It gives details on all the major players, locations, and general goings on. It is a very detailed and informative section for those who wish to explore its contents.

Gamemastering – This chapter details not only a general guide to game mastering but also handling the tone of the setting and guides detailing quest structure. Personally, I am glad they included this section, as the setting of Fallout is dark humor with emphasis on dark. Fallout is a strange mix of tone and genre for any player that may be unfamiliar with the games. 

Denizens of the Wasteland – This chapter is the bestiary providing insectoids to mutants, raiders, robots, turrets, and the like are all here. There is even a nice guide regarding scaling for encounters… and loot!

With a Bang, or a Whimper – The last chapter serves as an introductory campaign set in The Commonwealth. The campaign consists of three acts and a conclusion. For anyone wishing to play or run this campaign I am not going to go into any detail. The campaign is a well thought out introduction to the setting and provides a nice taste of the setting for new players.

The Good

Fallout the Role Playing Game contains nearly everything you could want out of the established setting. There was great thought that went into every aspect, and it shows. Much like my review of Altered Carbon, this is a labor of love.

The Bad

As a fan of Fallout 1, 2, Tactics, and New Vegas, there is a glaring omission of anything from these games including and lore about the Western United States. Do not expect anything written on Caesar’s Legion, The Great Khans, Vault Zero, NCR, nor anything else specific to those titles. Also, I’m entirely aware that the license for this game was based off of Bethesda’s use of the property, so it makes sense that such things would be omitted. However, if anyone from the development team is reading, I am positive there would be a big demand for some supplementary material regarding the wasteland of the Western U.S.

Overall

I know that I had misgivings about the 2D20 mechanics in my review of Dishonored, but somehow it works better here. If you are a fan of the Fallout series, or desire a robust post-apocalyptic setting, this is great purchase!    

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