Tuesday 23 February 2010

Fallout: War, War Never Changes

Please do join me in welcoming back Jason Kline to review this monster game...

Based on the games Fallout I, II, and Tactics by Jason Mical (But written well before III came out) this is the definitive tome for role-playing in the Fallout Universe. In fact, the author had permission from the creators of the video-game themselves, uses much of the material right from the sources – weapon stats, perks, images, and the SPECIAL system.


For the most part, the game is quite easy to play and get into. Characters have seven attributes (Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, Luck – hence the acronym) rated from 1-10, which in turn are used to derive a host of secondary stats like carry weight, action points, and the initial skill values. Most rolls are simply percentile based (though counter-intuitively, the maximum skill goes well above 100 to allow for large penalties) or in rare cases, a d10 compared to a character's stats.

While there is a traditional XP per level system of advancement, there are no classes (Though the faster-advancing tag skills help define the character) and every few levels a Perk is gained. A great deal of effort has been put into making the game accessible to novice gamers. Examples abound, as well as a set of pre-made characters, discussion of how to write adventures, the first few acts of a sample campaign, a very through index, and a bibliography of resources used. A few additional supplements available from the forum where the document is archived detailing other areas of the fallout world.


The one caveat is the combat system. As with many of the other mechanics, this is take directly from the original video games, and as such was meant for the computer to resolve. Any shot you take needs to account for about five different modifiers, and damage resolution can be tricky due to the way armor works. Besides shooting, there is moving on a hex map, action points, cones of fire, crippling injuries, armor condition, and rules for fighting in vehicles. Using miniatures is all but required.

While this gets easier with practice (like any seemingly difficult RPG mechanic) the Fallout world is a violent one. The equipment section lists 90 firearms – from a one shot zip gun to Gauss rifles – for the small guns skill alone! And yet it goes on with stats for big guns, energy weapons, and melee equipment – all told the armory list run from page 74 to 105!. The presentation of Fallout PnP is on par with the production values of a game from the 80's. Its mostly dense blocks of “Courier” type font, broken by the occasional Vault Boy graphic or information box. However, the weapons sections are lavishly illustrated with images right from the game (and the classic humors descriptions taken from there as well.) Perhaps not the prettiest layout, but its very functional and its easy to find what you're looking for.

Fallout 3?

For those of you who are wondering, while Fallout III presents some vast changes in game-play from its predecessors – many of the weapons and adversaries are recycled. (Too many in my opinion – the plot of Fallout I&II detail why there should be no Super Mutants or Enclave troopers to inhabit DC) However, this means that you are capable a game set in the Washington ruins as well as the default western US. Someone has posted documents on No Mutants Allowed with stats for items from the Bethesda installment, but these aren't up to the standards of the initial tome.


Fallout is a 1950's zeerust take on the nuclear holocaust – computers work on vacuum tubes, the remaining cars have tail fins, and radiation produces giant mutant insects. As either a reference tool for your own post apocalypse game, or a chance to take your own romp through the B-move end of the world of Fallout universe, this is a game well worth looking into.


Vincent Diakuw said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aldo Ojeda said...

Fallout it's my favorite computer rpg, but I don't like this adaptation to pen and paper.
I think the combat system could be simplified and still keep the fallout feeling.

Jason said...

It's really awesome that you guys posted the link to this, ten years after I wrote it. It was a hell of a lot of fun to write and it's great that people are still playing it so many years later.

Thanks for this - you made my day, if not my week or month.

@maledictus: Totally agree, there is a bit of built-in scalability in the combat system to keep things simple. Burst fire is byfar the worst offender, but when I adapted it originally I went for as close to a straight conversation of the C-RPG SPECIAL rules as possible and let people scale down as needed, although I'm not sure the rules reflect that intent.

Rob Lang said...

I wish I had reviewed this. It's an inspirational PnP conversion of a computer RPG. It shows how to make great use of the depth and resources of the computer game.

Although I am a massive F3 fan, I have never been tempted to try the originals until now. :-)

Age of Fable said...

Apparently 'Fallout' is based on 'Wasteland', which used pen-and-paper rules (Tunnels & Trolls / Mercenaries, Spies and Private Eyes).

Jason said...

Fun fact: Fallout was originally going to use GURPS, but there was a disagreement between Interplay and SJG and SPECIAL was the result.

Endy said...

I will be honest, I've always been interested in Fallout as a game. But as Jason has already states, it originally was a GURPS game, and then switched over to the SPECIAL system when there was a... disagreement, over bloodshed, from what I've been told.

Though, I will admit that the passing similarities in statistics between SPECIAL and FASERIP have always interested me, and I've wondered off and on about running one with the other - perhaps using a modified version of 4C?

On the other hand, if I were better with GURPS, I think I would try and run Fallout with that, just to see how it would be done.

SumDood said...

Yes, this is something I really need to play. After finishing BioShock, I'm looking for something to waste my non-existent time on. This looks perfect!