Category Archives: Wanderer’s Rules

Kiss my Cass

Meet Cass (Click any image to embiggen).

Enter the Chin.

19 years old and fresh out of a sealed nuclear bunker (Vault 101) for the first time in her life, 200 years after the nuclear war that reduced Washington to rubble, she’s uh… well.

We are each a special snowflake that will melt in hell

She’s a schlemiel. A crabby, perpetually unlucky weakling with all the social skills of a pregnant warthog. (Well okay, I don’t actually intend for her to be a complete social cretin – this is just the best way to keep her barter skill low, which will make for a more challenging economy). To offset this, I’ve upped her Endurance, which will increase her resistance to radiation, but more importantly mean she can take more damage, and her Intelligence, which will mean more skill points in the long run, and a slight headstart on medical and scientific skills, used for healing and hacking respectively.

These stats are very difficult to raise permanently, so I had to choose carefully. The abysmal luck will mean that she will find almost nothing in the wilderness but horror and pain, and her complete lack of muscle will restrict her to carrying only the barest of essentials around. In the vanilla game, and even with FWE’s default setting, any but the lowest strength stat will allow you to carry around absurd amounts of equipment. That won’t be happening with Cass.

The lack of a 'cowering' skill is a disgrace

I tag her three core skills as Lockpicking, Repair, and Small Guns. These skills will raise twice as quickly if I choose to put points in them when I level up, and skill points will be few and far between in this game. Lockpicking and Repair fit the scavenger’s lifestyle well, as they’ll give me access to more goodies and the occasional secret area, while Repair will allow me to improve any weapons I find, either to even my fighting chances or sell for greater profit.

Though I wanted this to be about pure scavenging and avoiding trouble, small guns proved to be a necessity – I will simply have to be able to defend myself or I won’t last a week, even with, say, the Sneak skill. It’ll only take one lucky shot to put me down for good, so I’ll need to be able to make my own shots count.

Medical skill has been boosted by my high intelligence. This will make things a fair bit easier as I’ll be able to heal up more efficiently, and if I put some points in or get the right perks, I might be able to make my own medical supplies. I’d rather not have this as it makes for more challenge (doctors are expensive and hard to find), but it may prove ncessary. We’ll see.

Otherwise, you can pretty much see how I’m almost competent to completely hopeless at basically everything, so it won’t be such a departure from my everyday life. Unarmed skill won’t be very useful as I’m too weedy to put any weight into a blow and too clumsy to sneak up on anyone anyway. “punch robot to death” as a tactical option comes a distinct third, slightly above “curl up into a foetal position and sob piteously”.

FWE also allows you to choose from a few dozen ‘backgrounds’ that can affect your starting equipment, stats, and in some cases, allegiances. The closest thing to the default is ‘vault dweller’, but that puts you right outside megaton, which is a bit boring and easy. I’m tempted by ‘escaped slave’, but that would make slavers attack on sight, which I’d rather avoid, and would mean a quarter of my weight/space allowance would be taken up by a useless slave collar. No thanks.

I plump for ‘wastelander’ instead, which bruises my Science skill, but boosts my radiation resistance and explosives skill. It puts me down in an unfamiliar location, which is ideal for my purposes. We’ll probably find that NPCs will still treat me as the ‘vault dweller’, but I’m sure we’ll manage.

And awaaaay we go!

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I don’t make the rules, except for these ones.

To preserve a spirit of wandering, exploring, and cautious balancing of odds, I am not allowed to use the in-game map. At all. That includes fast travel options, with one exception as outlined below. I must navigate by the sun and landmarks (I disabled the in-game compass so long ago that I genuinely forget it exists sometimes, so I literally can’t use that either).

The exception to this is the Explorer motorbike. This is an optional FWE feature that plants a broken down motorbike near a major town. once you’ve repaired and refueled it (mixing the fuel from several ingredients), you can use it to fast travel to any map marker you’ve already visited. It’s a good system I’ve toyed with, as it allows you to cut out the most tedious and pointless journeys, but not without scavenging up some machine parts and fuel ingredients to keep it in working order. Pity there’s no tape deck.

I can’t run, unless I have a compelling, urgent reason to do so, such as imminent death or nightfall (Fellout’s nights are dark. Very dark. Some nasties are nocturnal and/or can see in the dark. Being outside at night is generally a bad idea).

No exploits. This means I can’t use the ‘grab key carry’ function to shift heavier items over long distances. I can’t kill someone by repeatedly attacking, then apologising. I can’t cram 10Kg of meat down my gullet to heal up – once I’m no longer hungry, no more food.

No obvious stealing. It’s easy in Fallout 3 to steal everything that isn’t nailed down, and unless someone’s watching you, you’ll never be caught out. This would make the game far too easy. I’ll instead be imagining that Fallout models character inventories like, say, the Gothic games did, so that if I go into someone’s farmhouse and empty their cupboards, they’re going to notice it the next day.

However, given that this is a wasteland struggle for survival in a lawless radioactive hellhole, I’m not going to say I won’t be stealing. I will almost certainly be a total dick to at least some people, especially people I’ll never see again. If it’s safer than going up against raiders, then hell yeah, I’ll steal some ammunition from that kindly scavenger. Fuck that guy.

I must eat, sleep and drink, and attempt to scrape together enough money to stay alive long-term.

I must take care of secondary needs. Humans are social creatures, so I’ll need to wander into town sometimes and kill time with the locals. I’ll also need something to occupy myself if I get together enough food and water for a few days, so I may be hanging on to any recreational drugs and spirits I acquire, for use on a hazy sunday afternoon. If I can afford it, I’ll also be making use of the more, ahem, personal services one can find in town. Hey man, you’ve got to live for something, right?

I must stay alive, for this is the big one. Except in cases of glitches, crashes, or fat-fingered idiocy on my part, no game loading. If I get injured, I’m injured. If I steal and get caught, I’m caught. If I piss off a town, that town will remain hostile. If I get addicted to some obscure substance, I remain addicted. Once I’m dead, I’m dead.

So I must treat every venture as the danger it is. I must weigh up even the most basic of encounters with the potential risks and rewards. I must treat ammo and supplies as expensive, but less valuable than my life – if I’m in a tight spot, better to spray away 50 bullets at 10 caps a pop than than take a few in the chest myself. So, I will live my miserable, painful, lonely life as if it is the only one I have.

A final word: not only have I not played FWE/MMM a great deal, I have also not completed the vanilla Fallout 3 game. I played it a lot – it’s a great game – and to a high level, but eventually got bored with invincibly one-shotting everything with an endless pile of ammo and health. However, I have neither completed much of the main storyline nor explored most of the map. So, while some of my ignorance will be feigned for the sake of narrative, much of it will be genuine. I’ll be going into this with only a vague idea of what to expect.

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The Mods

As well as Fallout Wanderers Edition, I will be playing with:

Mart’s Mutant Mod: Increases the number, variety, and individuality of creatures (it introduces many new ones also).

Weapon Mod Kits, which allows you to buy add-ons for many guns such as scopes, silencers, larger magazines etc.

CRAFT: The Community Resource To Allow Fanmade Tinkering. A community resource kit that allows for a greater variety of custom weapons. Assuming you have the right equipment and a ‘blueprint’ recipe, you can build more than the few default weapons now.

CALIBR: The Community Ammunition Library. Another community resource that adds more ammunition types to the game to cater for the many new weapons included in FWE.

Fellout: A graphics mod that removes the green filter from the game and makes several changes to the weather and lighting. It also, crucially, makes nights incredibly dark, so I won’t be able to see more than a few feet in front of me if I’m daft enough to go exploring on a cloudy night.

Enhanced Weather: Adds rain to the game (and snow, which I haven’t seen yet, as it’s apparently seasonal and the game starts in August). I’ve enabled an option to make the rain radioactive, so I will be forced to find shelter (this means entering a building unfortunately, as it’s not possible to model awnings or rocky outcroppings etc.) or use up expensive anti-radiation chemicals.

Streetlights: Adds lighting to key points in the outside world – works very well with Fellout’s pitch black nights, and makes for some lovely contrasting light scenes.

Realistic Interior Lighting: Makes inside locations much more atmospheric and in many cases dark and treacherous.

Project Beauty: Makes some cosmetic changes to NPC faces. There’s an obvious difference, but it’s not a vital mod, as I find the default faces are fine for the most part.

Shells Rain: Makes more shell casings stay around for longer. A nice touch after a heavy gunfight.

No Battle Music: Disables the surprise-killing combat music that kicks in whenever an enemy attacks you. I will need to be alert.

MZ silent killer: Disables the radiation warnings and geiger counter clicks that usually appear whenever you are being irradiated. The ‘you have radiation sickness’ messages still appear, which is fine by me.

Owned!: Allows you to ‘inherit’ rooms and their contents from people you’ve killed. Also allows you to sleep on some beds when they’re not in use. This will be handy if I get into any scrapes, as I will be able to sleep in someone’s bed if they’re dead. It also adds the option to buy and rent out most buildings, but I won’t be using this feature.

Wearable Backpacks: A mod expanded by several people that adds backpacks to the game, increasing your maximum carry capacity. I’ve actually made some of my own modifications to this to alter the price and capacity values of the backpacks to suit the needs of this blog – the default versions add up to 75Kg of weight, which is vastly more than I want as it would allow me to carry an entire armoury. I’ve set this down to a maximum of 25Kg, and the prices will likely put most of them out of my reach anyway.

There are many, many more mods out there, from the crap to the excellent. If you’ve not played with any of them, I strongly urge you to have a look around, as there will be someone out there who has modded the game to your liking and is kindly sharing the fruits of their labour for free.

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The Background

(Update 5th October 2011: The old “about” page for this story can be viewed here.)

Despite its harsh post-apocalyptic setting, Fallout 3 did little in the way of survivalism – though the wasteland was beautifully drawn to look hostile and inhospitable, in practice even a low level character could wander pretty much anywhere without serious danger.

A variety of food and water items, and the inbuilt radiation system, as well as several drugs, were included, but basically useless.  You never needed to eat or sleep, it was almost impossible to get seriously irradiated by accident, and chances are you’d have a large stockpile of medicine to fix that anyway.  Same goes for the plentiful ammunition.

Endo, 19, shortly after knifing 4 commandos to death.  Not pictured: difficulty
Endo here killed nine armed marauders with a breadknife mere minutes after leaving the Vault. He trained as a merchant.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s a great game and I still recommend it, and I’m not a hardcore roleplayer or anything. But just try playing it and not seeing the underused potential the setting and game world. Go ahead, try it. I’ll wait.

Fortunately, Bethesda released official modding tools, as is their habit, and fans soon got stuck in and produced a dizzying variety of mods to alter just about every aspect of the game.

Fallout Wanderers Edition is a popular compilation of many such mods, helpfully bashed into shape to prevent them from upsetting each other and crashing the game (a common problem with combining otherwise un-compiled mods).  Among the most important changes are the need for regular food, sleep, and water, without which you’ll weaken and die, a more complex healing system that makes injuries harder to treat (no spamming stim packs or quaffing 20 tins of beans to instantly heal during a fight) and crippled body parts require special treatment, a complete overhaul of levelling and combat damage, as well as a wide array of new items and weaponry to play with.

Thanks to Mart’s Mutant Mod, more hostiles and creatures appear, each with unique stats, aggression levels and even size – a small wild dog might die as soon as look at you, while a pack of large dogs could cause significant harm.  Among the many configurable options is one that gives a percentage chance that high-end hostiles will appear regardless of your level, and another which means that some usually populated areas will occasionally be empty.

Used together, these mods make can easily be tweaked to turn the game into a nightmarish (yet still fun) survival simulation. And that’s what this blog is about.

I will be setting almost everything to the absolute harshest, toughest setting, most notably item scarcity, and merchants, who will be absolutely ruthless.  I will find that even items actively placed in the game by its designers will often be missing (aside from mission-critical ones, obviously), and containers that normally contain random loot will have far less, if any.  When I do manage to find enough items to haul back to town, I will find that traders will only offer me a pittance, and will charge obscene markups for anything I buy, knowing full well that the only alternative I have is to go out and risk my life.  Unless I’m incredibly lucky, it’ll be a long time before I can afford any luxury items, and every day will be a struggle to survive.

Master of all she almost steps on

This is Fallout 3:  Lonely as a Mushroom Cloud.  Wish me luck!

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Filed under Fallout 3, Wanderer's Rules