SPOILER ALERT: This guide covers some of the early quests, but doesn't reveal any critical story elements. Proceed with caution!
Whether you're unaccustomed to this crazy RPG business of stat-chi-ma-call-its and skill dongles, you're a bit rusty after years without a new Fallout to play, or you just want to design the most badassiest character ever, this guide will gently push you and your character in the right direction. You don't need a full walkthrough, just someone to put you in the right direction. That's why I suffered through hours and hours of low-level mudsuckery to determine exactly how to make sure you're not flailing around at level 10 with a master lockpicker who can't kill a regular sized ant, never mind a giant one (though honestly, it would be pretty difficult to make a completely useless character).
Since games like Fallout 3 tend to strongly divide players on strategy, if you vehemently disagree with any of my advice, feel free to let it be known in the comments.
Above: The magestic Wasteland
• You always want to start with a high intelligence, as this affects the number of skill points you’ll receive when you level up.
• Don’t begin with any of your S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats set to 10 – there is a +1 Bobblehead for every stat, you just have to find it.
• If you’re super serious about your stats, set your Intelligence to 9 (which saves one point for another stat), and as soon as you think you can make it, run to Rivet City and grab the Intelligence Bobblehead.
• If you don’t intend to use melee weapons or practice hand-to-hand combat, you don’t have to worry much about your Strength stat. The only other thing it affects is how much you can carry, but it isn’t tough to find a follower to carry your stuff for you.
• Always take the Educated (gives you three extra skill points when you level up) and Comprehension (gives you 2, instead of 1, skill points when you read a book) perks.
• You will thank yourself for not ignoring medicine and repair.
• Always choose a primary combat method and bring that skill up to 50 quickly – I recommend Small Guns, but Energy Weapons, Melee, and Unarmed also work.
• Get either science or lockpicking up to 25 quickly, it will make your life easier. Lockpick is especially useful for finding ammo and scoring some quick experience.
• I know it’s sort of cheating, but once Speech is up to a respectable level (25ish), you don’t have to worry about it too much. If you save just before attempting to persuade someone, you can reload and retry it as many times as you like.
Your S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats affect certain attributes (such as your hit points) as well as various skills.
At 1, a S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stat affects its associated skills by two points. This effect is increased by two for each subsequent stat number. For example, a Perception of 1 adds two skill points to the Energy Weapons skill, a Perception of 2 adds four, a Perception of 3 adds six, and so on. The only exception to this rule is the Luck stat, which increases all of your skills a little bit. If your luck is 1 or 2, it increases all skills by one, 2 or 3 and it increases all skills by two, 4 or 5 and it increases all skills by three, and so on.
Affects how much you can carry, how much damage you deal in hand-to-hand combat, and your Melee Weapons skill.
Affects how early threat markers will appear on your compass, the Energy Weapons skill, the Lockpick skill, and the Explosives skill.
Affects the number of HP you start with, the Big Guns skill, and the Unarmed skill. The HP breakdown is as follows:
Affects people’s disposition toward you, and your Barter and Speech skills.
Affects the number of skill points you receive when you level, and the Medicine, Repair, and Science skills. An Intelligence of 1 offers 11 skill points per level. This number increases by 1 for each level of Intelligence, so an Intelligence of two gives you 12 skill points per level, an Intelligence of 3 gives you 13 skill points, and so on up to 10, which gives you 20 skill points per level.
Affects your total number of Action Points (used by V.A.T.S.) and the Small Guns and Sneak skills. At 1 Agility, you are allotted 67 Action Points, and this number increases by 2 for each subsequent Agility level, for a maximum of 85 Action Points at 10 Agility.
Luck increases all skills slightly, and increases your chance of a critical hit. The critical hit chance begins at 1% with 1 Luck, and increases by one for each level of Luck, for a maximum of 10% at 10 Luck.
On the next page: Level 1!