Fallout 3: Basic Leveling Guide

Level  1 – Your initial stats

When you create your character inside Vault 101, you are able to distribute your S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats however you see fit, and tag three skills (which increases their initial values).

Tip: Grab everything you can on your way out of the vault. Seriously - junk, weapons, clothes, armor - take it all! You'll be glad you did when you sell it all later. And don't miss the Medicine Bobblehead on your dad's desk!

As a general rule for your S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats – make sure your intelligence is high. It affects the number of Skill Points you receive when you level up, and you want as many as you can get. Don't worry too much if some of your other stats are a bit low - they can be increased later using the Intense Training perk.

When tagging your three skills, make sure you tag at least one primary combat method – this can be Small Guns, Energy Weapons, Melee, or Unarmed. You may choose Big Guns or Explosives as a secondary combat method, but don't get too caught up in them right away, they aren't nearly as practical as the others.

Lockpick is very practical, especially early on when you'll be searching for ammo. Repair is practically essential, unless you plan on being a rich opportunist who can pay for all of his repairs (in which case, think about dropping some points into Barter later). Science and Medicine are also viable options for your tagged skills, though you should have grabbed the Medicine Bobblehead in the vault, making it less important.

Note: Even if you don't tag Repair, expect to dump a lot of skill points into it later.

The following basic archetypes can be used as a general guideline for your point distribution.


If you intend to primarily use guns, your most important stats (aside from Intelligence) are Agility, Perception, and Luck. These will give you bonuses to Energy Weapons, Small Guns, Explosives, and Lockpick (useful for finding ammo), and will increase your available Action Points and the chance you will score Critical Hits. While some will warn you against lowering your Strength and Endurance, it's my feeling that a skilled gunslinger can afford the hits, because melee combat should be rare, and you can avoid damage by keeping your distance and using cover. For a more balanced character, drop your Perception and Luck a bit and bump up your Strength and Endurance.

Example: Str 2, Per 6, End 4, Cha 3, Int 9, Agi 9, Luck 7

When tagging skills for this character, I chose Repair, Lockpick, and Small Guns. Just stay away from stuff that your low Strength and Endurance makes impractical, like Unarmed or Big Guns. If you really want to, tag Small Guns and Energy Weapons, and your gun prowess will be formidable.


If you intend to fight with your hands, melee weapons, big guns, explosives, and the like, focus on Strength, Endurance, and Luck. This will increase the amount of damage you can take, the amount of damage you can deal in close combat, and your chance of a critical hit.

Example: Str 9, Per 2, End 7, Cha 2, Int 8, Agi 5, Luck 7

When tagging my skills for this character, I chose Melee Weapons, Unarmed, and Repair.


For a slower, more ninja-like approach, focus on Strength, Agility, and Luck, but don't drop your Endurance (to take damage in close combat) or Perception (to identify enemies before they see you, and to assist in lockpicking) below 5. If you must sacrifice some Intelligence to balance this character, make up for it by using the Intense Training perk as you level up.

Example: Str 7, Per 5, End 5, Cha 1, Int 7, Agi 8, Luck 8

You don’t have to be quite as unlikable as I was with a Charisma of 1, so fiddle with the numbers a bit until you feel you've got a good balance. If you'd like to make a high Charisma character, you'll have to make sacrifices across the board. 

When tagging my skills, I chose Lockpick, Melee Weapons, and Sneak.

Tip: Make sure you have a save game just before leaving the vault, this way you can go back and muck around with your character as much as you like without having to relive childhood.

On the next page: Escape from the Vault!


  • AerialUchiha - December 9, 2014 7:03 a.m.

    I'm aware that this is now a 5 year old guide, but is there a version that also includes Strategies for the Broken Steel add on? With that you get more leeway with the skill points due to the added 10 levels, and intense training isn't needed due to the 'almost perfect' perk
  • DWall - March 13, 2011 1:23 a.m.

    i did exactly what he was talkin bout and it works great. i dont use energy weapons at all. i love the game though. just wish it was longer lol.
  • lostabyss - December 7, 2010 6:54 a.m.

    i made an account just to say this. if you want to play the game just to have some fun, i would highly reccomend unarmed and bloody mess. I made my first character unarmed, lockpick, and medicine, focusing on str, and end of course. It just never gets old to make somebody explode after a few punches. With the right spec, you basically need to make a badass tank that does some nice damage. The companion often makes a nice distraction, but when i had clover she died too often. So unarmed is just as viable an option as any other weapon class. And if i remember correctly, i think muties took me 2 punches, and brutes took roughly 5 at level 12ish.
  • rockduda - November 20, 2010 10:16 p.m.

    opps not put but but
  • rockduda - November 20, 2010 10:14 p.m.

    im level 10 it was not easy put it is more more harder to level up i am thinking of using gliches to level up but i dont wont to what should i do p.s i am not in it to play just to have fun :)
  • dav1337 - June 11, 2010 6:52 a.m.

    obviously you people have never tried playing a melee or unarmed character, you dont just run up with your fists like lordkemo makes it sound. unarmed is extremely powerful if you are a sneaky character (same goes for melee). if you do it right its absolutely deadly. paralyzing palm is a good perk when sneaking and then you can put on your deathclaw gauntlet which increases your crit chance and cuts through ALL armor, so it hits a giant super mutant as hard as it would hit a molerat.. with the right perks, skills, and SPECIAL melee characters are on par with ranged if used right
  • pipboy658 - April 28, 2010 5:19 p.m.

    oh n i had 50,000, heres how u do it. any enclave people u kill, take their gun n sell it. if u have mothership zeta then get all alien atomizers coz they only weigh 2 n all drone cannons (drone cannons sell around 1,000 caps each)! other than thatt just look 4 valuaable guns.
  • pipboy658 - April 28, 2010 5:16 p.m.

    i might use this way, ive started this game again so many times but i stuck with one guy n he was AMAZING! he was lvl 30, i had around 15,000 bullets for my xaulong assault rifle, the special power armor from anchorige, the almost perfect perk n all bobble heads except the energy one from raven rock cause i missed it :(. i completed all side quests and main quest line. 1 of every gun (and special guns. i killed all behemoths. bought everything for my house n pre war theme lolz! i found every location on map (not explorer perk) coz i like wandering around, i use my alien disintergrator! oh n my biggest ever achievement i ever did was carry the dead alien from the crash site all the way to tenpenny tower to keep the homeless guy company! (it took me 4 hours) now thats dedication.
  • MyGameName - March 28, 2010 4:58 a.m.

    With the Broken Steel expansion, you can get 100% SPECIAL. Just hold off getting the SPECIAL bobble heads (except for INT) until Level 30 and take Nearly Perfect. It will pop you up to 9 on all of the SPECIAL stats except for any 10's. Thus only get Bobble heads when you have 9 in a stat. Also, drop the Luckey 8 ball before taking the perk/getting the bobble head. You'll lose the 1 point Luck Bonus.
  • lonelyassassin996 - February 19, 2010 2:41 p.m.

    good guide, found it very useful on my 2nd character, but u really do need high speech, mine's 100 and it just makes the game easier.
  • Dem776 - January 4, 2010 6:42 p.m.

    for anyone who has the game of the year edition doing the add-on quests is a good way to go up levels especially the mother-ship zeta mission, plus you get some really good guns, the operation anchorage is also good.
  • Slayer423 - December 22, 2009 6:21 p.m.

    i was on Google and their said if you beat the game with good karma you'll be able to keep playing like in the oblivion games?
  • WickedghosT - October 20, 2009 11:12 p.m.

    your guide is alright I just checked it out too see if caught anything I didn't but you did a good job. Everyone should really listen too putting int. up too 9 in special's and grab the rivit city bobble. I have 2 lvl 30's and a 28 im just messing with I wanted too make a ninja for fun. But nice tip on the speech tip and using your followers as pack mules,dogmeat can carry too. I use the save and restart too keep them alive sometimes,can't have them dying on me. But I love this game.. get the bobbles as soon as u can..
  • MrKwantos - December 10, 2008 4:29 p.m.

    My special setup at the beginning is this: S 6 P 6 E 6 C 1 I 9 A 6 L 6 First thing i did was running to Rivet city, claiming my Intelligence Bobblehead, so i got 10 Intelligence. Now you 'll recieve (up to level 20) a total number of 427 skill points. (19 + 20 + 20 + 16 x 23 = 427, 19 because your intel is 9 and there is no way you can get the Bobblehead before going to level 2) Now you got about 33 points for eacht stat. This will allow you to take every skill to level 50. Now you also have different tag skills and perks to boost it, so you can easily say, you could get 65 of each skill. besides, you also got the "Skill Bobbleheads", improving your stats to 75. Now you also have a huge amount of books (25 for every skill, except barter which has 24), so that would make your skill 100, without using Comprehension. I would would personally always pick Comprehension as a perk. It still gives you a nice boost at reading books. Finding 13 books is always better then 25. **Note** If you really want to max out your stats, just make sure you take the Educated perk at level 4 and the Comprehension perk at level 5.
  • Mr_Monkey - December 10, 2008 2:12 p.m. type this as the adress and download
  • Mr_Monkey - December 7, 2008 1:11 p.m.

    Level 20 is the maximum level. Unless you find the mod which lets you level up to level 30-40
  • gabe.caso - December 6, 2008 5:17 p.m.

    I seem to be stuck at level 20 and cant level up anymore . What am I doing wrong ?
  • grimknight75 - November 28, 2008 2:15 a.m.

    liberty prime VS fawkes prime wins one shot :(
  • jick6 - November 23, 2008 5:17 a.m.

    Umm one thing I might add (I'm on the 4th page right now) is that, well... The Caravans actually aren't that hard to rob. I robbed Lucky Harith AND that WolfGang guy at Level 2. (On Normal mode) The trick is to get a good melee weapon or explosive and hit their Caravan Guard with it right away, while their not suspicious of you. The caravan salesman is weaker than their guard anyway. Crow is particularly easy to rob. In my data, (maybe it was a glitch?), he didn't fight back. I don't think he has a weapon, but he tried to run. By that time I had Dogmeat and Clover though, so I didn't really have to chase him down.
  • Jackyboo - November 21, 2008 4:01 p.m.

    My first character was a goody goody with amazing gun skills but little else, as I failed to make him good at lockpicking or repairing. My second character is a proper bad-boy now, and can use 1 stimpak to heal what 3 stimpaks would heal on my previous character. Thanks for the guide, it's a shame you didnt put in how important medicine is though (a medicine skill of 75 and 10 stimpaks makes you practically invincible) but thanks for telling me the importance of repair and small guns. Thanks.

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