Well, folks, that’s it. I wasn’t able to do it. I promised myself- and you as well, if you want to see it that way- that I would find a .PDF of the Fallout RPG. I looked and looked, and I just wasn’t able to do it. Apparently, though, I should have seen this coming- I mean, the game as written was never released. So how could there have been a copy of it out there?
Like I said a post or two ago, they did however take the Fallout-specific stuff out of it and release it under the name “Exodus”, so I guess you could consider Exodus the Fallout RPG. But what I was really looking for was Exodus back when it still had the Fallout license. Oh well. As they say on my home planet of Earth, “man’s reach exceeds his grasp”.
I did come across a little tidbit of material! Turns out that when they were working on the game, they released a little sample teaser to show fans what the game would be like. It wasn’t much- just some fluff- but I did notice that every single place I came across that fluff, there were multiple warnings informing me it did not match up with series canon from the games. So, having read it, I’m forced to rate it as “not good”. Sorry, friends. Better luck next time.
Anyway, researching that game led me to another game that came out as well, just called “Fallout Pen And Paper”. A pretty derpy name, yeah, I know. (I’ve always hated the phrase “pen and paper” when referring to games like D&D. “Tabletop” works fine, or, you know, just say “RPG” and be done with it.) But anyway, this one was actually made by the head writer of the formerly-official one that became Exodus. You know, the one I just talked about as not being very good? However, this one is actually a completely different game using a brand new system, unrelated to Exodus. So let’s see what’s in store for us.
Right off the bat, I notice that he thanks Interplay and Black Isle for making the games, but not Bethesda or Obsidian. Which is important, since Interplay/Black Isle were the ones that made the first two games, but significantly, they did NOT make 3 or New Vegas- Bethesda and Obsidian did. That tells me this game was made before either of those games, and therefore does not contain any content- statistical or fluff- from them. A quick Google check confirms that Fallout Pen And Paper came out some time in 2006- two years before 3 and five years before New Vegas.
Not good news for me, since I didn’t start playing the series until 3, so I’m not very familiar with the canon of the first two games.
Next thing I notice is that he decided to incorporate material from a couple spinoff Fallout games that were considered subpar, due to their own divergence from canon- specifically, Fallout: Tactics and Fallout: Brotherhood Of Steel, released in 2001 and 2004, respectively. He also notes he used material from Wasteland, which was a game from the late 80s that the original Fallout is kind of considered a sort-of unofficial sequel to. They’re stylistically similar, I’ll put it that way.
They actually released a sequel to Wasteland last September, funded through Kickstarter. That’s not really apropos of anything in particular, I’m just letting you know.
As I was saying- Fallout. He mentions that you can expect some judicious changes in the physical mechanics of how some things work- it was more important that the spirit is the same, rather than the mechanics. I can respect that.
As for the rules proper, he starts off with a John Lennon quote. Not exactly the best first impression it could have left on me, for a variety of reasons. But I’ll let that go. He explains a little about the universe, what everything means, and so on. Then the races. Interestingly, for a game based on a series where you only ever play as a human, they give you multiple playable races to choose from. Ghoul, Super Mutant, half-mutants and robots are all choice, as well as- interestingly enough- dogs and Deathclaws. I will admit, playing through Fallout, it never occurred to me to play as Dogmeat, or a Deathclaw, and I don’t find that a particularly fun-sounding choice. But looking around on the internet, it seems to be a popular idea, so i guess I’m wrong about that. But whatever, moving on.
There are no classes, and you instead just start off with 5 in each of your SPECIAL stats, with five additional points you can put wherever you like. However, some races have racial minimums (or maximums) in certain SPECIAL stats, and you don’t get those changes automatically. You have to use the five extra points you get to make sure your character matches up with the required numbers. And remember, just like in the games, you can purposely lower a SPECIAL below five, if you choose.
Traits seem to basically be the same, and work basically the same way- one thing gets better, and another thing gets worse as a tradeoff. Fair enough. There are a whole bunch of new traits as well, mainly for nonhumans- ghouls, dogs, and the like. A lot of them are pretty interesting, too.
SPECIAL works the same way as in the games (I laughed out loud at the “the guy from ‘Sling Blade'” line), and I notice they also included a D&D-style “unconsciousness” system. In Fallout proper, you hit zero HP, you die. In this, you pass out, and don’t actually die until you hit -5 HP. As a frequent player of D&D, I’m okay with that.
Action Points work slightly differently- you get less of them overall, and individual actions take less AP per use. Course, then again, this is based off the games I haven’t played. And that might be an accurate representation of the Action Point system then, but it isn’t nowadays. But anyway, it looks fine enough to me, so I’m gonna say it looks good.
They spend some time looking at various energy resistances, and Damage Threshold (which I’m actually familiar with, since they reintroduced it in New Vegas), and rate of healing. All stuff that looks just fine on the surface.
The list of skills is a bit different than what I’m used to, but I don’t know if that’s because that’s how it was designed for this game, or if it’s an accurate representation of the skill list in the first two games, so I’m not gonna say anything bad about it. I will note, however, that any three skills you choose as your Tag skills go up by 2 for every 1 point you put in them. So that’s cool. There’s also a sidebar detailing a whole suite of new unarmed strikes you can learn if you meet the statistical prerequisites. Lots of different kinds of kicks and punches, mostly.
As far as starting skill points for your skill list, each individual skill starts off with a different amount, calculated using your base SPECIAL. They tell you in the skill description how to calculate it.
Weapon and armor condition and repair work the same, which is good. But I bring this up because there’s also a section in Repairs about vehicle condition and such, so apparently you can get and use vehicles in this game. That’s neat.
Combat initiative is determined by a stat called “Sequence” that works the same as “Initiative” in D&D. The combat section doesn’t really have any surprises in it, it just details how to determine range, and how much AP various actions take up, and things like that.
Oh, by the way, I forgot to mention earlier that the game uses d10s as the resolution mechanic.
Anyway, there is a section of vehicle combat afterwards, and it’s much the same as the regular combat section, just with a few additional rules for damaging vehicle systems, and EMP attacks, and the like.
Let’s see, the damage rules are up next. Radiation damage, crippled limbs, and so on. There’s a section on addiction and withdrawal, so that means I’ll be seeing stats for drugs later on.
The section on karma has another interesting thing in it that I also noticed with the Mass Effect game from a couple months back- karma itself doesn’t actually do anything. it’s a stat to keep track of, but there’s not guideline or implementation of what those numbers mean or how they affect your character. They have a list of karmic perks that you can get automatically for doing certain things, but those certain things aren’t “have a particular karma score”. So I dunno, bro.
The XP-per-level chart is, uh… (rechecks it) literally exactly the same as the one from 3.5. With one exception. When you get to level 21 and above in D&D, the required XP keeps at the same pace- your next level x 1,000, just like it was for the previous 20 levels. This game, meanwhile, tosses that out the window- at level 22 and higher, you require 40,000 XP (which is DOUBLE the amount needed to go from 20 go 21), and each level after that requires 40,000. Whether you’re level 24, or level 68, or level 89, you’re always gonna need 40,000 XP to level up.
Moving on. You get a handful of HP and skill points every time you level up, based on your Endurance and Intelligence, respectively (an absolute minimum of 3 HP and 7 skill points, if you have 1s in both relevant stats). Interestingly, there is no cap on the number of skill points you can have in a skill- they instead make it cost more skill points to raise a skill by one if you already have more than 100 in it.
Now, we’re at perks. A lot of the classic ones are still around (Comprehension and Die Hard, for instance, are names I definitely recognize), as well as a bunch of new ones (or ones that have been modified to work in a tabletop RPG). I’m not really noticing anything out of the ordinary with them, other than that they are great, just like normal.
The section on the background and history of the Wasteland is generally well-written, and has a lot of minor information of note, especially to people (like me) who didn’t play the first two. Apparently The Glow- formerly Edwards Air Force Base- was ground zero of the attack. However, the section on Las Vegas is a bit of a cringer, now that New Vegas is out. Almost all the stuff contained therein is wrong now. The unstoppable march of time, and all that.
The bestiary has a pretty good selection of monsters both large and small in it. Everything from the classic radscorpions and Deathclaws, to centaurs and geckos, as well as several different types of alien. It’s sadly pretty short, though.
They had a great, great idea when they decided to divide the gear section by the relevant skills, rather than value, or weight, or alphabetically, or whatever. It certainly makes things much easier to find. The other main thing that jumps out at me is just how many items they decided to put in the game. There’s lots of stuff. About 50 pages of gear. Not bad. Maybe not as many as, say, Weapons Locker, but that’s an entire book of nothing BUT weapons, so it’s not a fair comparison. I just wished they had also consolidated all the relevant stats into charts as well, rather than just having it at the end of the weapon description. It makes comparing weapons a lot easier.
The vehicles section I find particularly interesting, because it’s the first time I’ve ever seen usable vehicles in a Fallout game. They even have boats! And hot air balloons!
Afterwards, there’s an extended appendix section that I’m kinda ambivalent about. They have a large, color map of the area the games take place in, which is cool- but it’s literally the same map they used earlier in the book, but just bigger, so eh. There’s a few essays about how to be an effective GM or player (there’s one for each), which is cool, but why did you put this stuff (which you admit is for novices) over 100 pages into the book, instead of in the beginning?
They follow that up with a bunch of pre-made PCs, at least one for each playable race. Which is cool, because while they had a pretty good handful of the classic creatures in the bestiary, one thing it was sorely lacking was human stat blocks- all the ones in the bestiary were animals. What about if I’m fighting raiders? You know, the primary enemy of the game? The sample PCs don’t actually fix that, but they give you a baseline to compare and extrapolate, so it’s not a total wash.
After that is a sample adventure designed for first level characters. It’s about ten pages long, and it involves characters adventuring their way to Tulsa as hired caravan guards. Seems cool enough- it involves a religious cult trying to take over the city.
Looking through the index, I notice something interesting- Pythagoras and The Meaning Of Life both have entries, even though they, uh… aren’t rules in the game. Luckily, the index isn’t nearly as bad as Mass Effect’s is, mainly because it’s not trying to do nearly as much (entries for Tom Stoppard notwithstanding). The index here basically consists of the major ideas in the game (SPECIAL, Races, rules for using mines, things like that) and points out the page that the general concept appears on. Not quite as handy to find one specific line of rules, but a lot easier to find generally about where it’s located.
And I of course made sure to look up the money system (which, if you recall, is what caused all the problems in Mass Effect’s review). I was surprised to find there wasn’t one. It instead uses the barter system (which is listed under both Bartering and Trading in the index, but it isn’t a reprint- the Bartering section is about how the barter skill affects trading). Which means that all those values listed in the gear section were just an abstract theoretical. BUT AT LEAST THE SYSTEM FOR MONEY IS ACTUALLY LISTED IN THE INDEX.
And with that, I have reached the end of the book, and you know what that means- the patented Mysterious Dr. X Patented Review Treatment System©! Let’s see how it ranks.
- Readability- 2/3 (it’s really boring to look at- just walls of text)
- Usefulness Of Index- 2/3 (considering the relative dearth of listed items, that’s a good rating!)
- Successful Translation Of Source Material- 3/3
- Up-To-Dateness Of Rulebook- 1/3 (there have been two more games since, with no reflection in the rulebook. However, this might change- see below)
- Three More Points For Finding What I Was Looking For- 3/3
- Three MORE Points For Being More Accurate To Canon Than The Version That Turned Into Exodus Had Been- 3/3
- Three More Points AGAIN So I Can Get The Maximum Number Of Points Within The 20-25 Range, Where The Other Reviews Were, Which I Could Have Solved By Making These Out Of Five Instead Of Out Of Three, But I Don’t Feel Like Changing, And Instead Will Solve It By Doing This- 3/3
Would you look at that! Not a bad score! I guess that means I would recommend it! Course, I’ll be honest, I’m probably gonna recommend any game I review on here, even if I give it a low grade. After all, not everyone likes the same kind of games.
- The book could use some more pictures. It looks really boring to just read page after page after page of text.
- No table of contents. For that matter, no copyright/credits page either.
- Why does every tabletop game with a karma system always forget to include rules on how to use it?
- I find it very distracting that, all throughout the book, “hand to hand” is abbreviated into “HtH”. Kinda annoying and it doesn’t look very good on the page.
- Page 7, Races- “all are human (or were once human)”. Two pages later, Deathclaws, dogs, and robots. Yep, all the races were once human alright.
- There are two perks- Bend The Rules and Break The Rules- that I actually thought were a typo, and the book accidentally printed the same perks in two different spots. Why not just make Break The Rules rank 2 of Bend The Rules?
- Mysterious Stranger, baby! Also- the Mad Max reference made me laugh out loud, since Fury Road- the first new Mad Max movie in 30 years- came out to rave reviews a mere week before this writing.
- Hilariously, the sample adventure near the end explicitly points out in the opening description that it’s only part 1, and to get the rest of the adventure you have to go to the dude’s website and download it. “And why is that hilarious?”, you may be asking. Well, Theoretical Dude/Lady, it’s because the website no longer exists, so I guess we’re SOL on the rest of said adventure.
- The rulebook I was reviewing today can be found here.
And that’ll be it for today, pals and pallerinas! I am your host, The Mysterious Dr. X, saying “I’m really enjoying these reviews. Maybe I’ll make an actual column out of them”!
The Mysterious Dr. X (planning a trip to The Mysterious Dimension X, as like a vacation thing, not because he’s in trouble with the law [looks around])
P.S. The “see below” tag on Up-To-Dateness Of Rulebook is because, while writing this, I came across updates to the game (notably not written by the guy that wrote the original, so you can decide for yourself whether it’s considered official material for the game or not). The updates were to the “historical fluff”, “gear”, and “core rules” sections. These three updates incorporated rules and ideas found in 3 and New Vegas, and in all three cases, the update was written as to be intended to replace the relevant sections in the core rulebook release altogether. They’re all kinda big (the smallest is still 45 pages long) so I’m not gonna look over them now, but I’ll talk about them a bit next week, and possibly change my ratings for this game if I feel it’s warranted.