Bethesda explains the perceived Brotherhood of Steel retcon in Fallout 76

Fallout 76 is set in West Virginia - new territory for the Fallout series - and predates other Fallout games, so its interpretation of the Fallout universe will inevitably affect the series' lore. However, some Fallout fans believe it's overstepped its bounds and retconned in one of Fallout's most iconic factions - the Brotherhood of Steel, a militaristic order best known for their love of power armor.

Several Fallout 76 items and descriptions (like this letter) reference The Brotherhood of Steel and directly place them in West Virginia - but according to Fallout lore experts, the Brotherhood couldn't have been in West Virginia when Fallout 76 takes place. As our sister site PC Gamer reported, Fallout fans rallied around one post from Reddit user Baffodil, who claimed the Brotherhood's presence "should make no sense" in Fallout 76 given that "the implied canon is that they were still hibernating in their bunker in Lost Hills [in California] until 2150." In a separate post, Reddit user Tagaziel supported Baffodil's claim, arguing that previous Fallout games show no record of Brotherhood activity in West Virginia at any point.

"Almost all lore up to the events of Fallout 2 and 3 with the BoS took place almost exclusively in California," Baffodil said, "with ranking leaders having to make petitions just to go on expeditions to facilities even within California, earliest known activity was only in California around 2134. The Brotherhood of Steel being in West Virginia in the year 2102 should be downright implausible if not impossible - the implied canon is that they were still hibernating in their bunker in Lost Hills until 2150 after they went on an Exodus from Mariposa directly south to their new base in 2077. Note the [Brotherhood] were not created by Bethesda. So this is overstepping into original Interplay/Black Isle Lore and retconning [the first Fallout]." 

"The reason people are so passionate about the lore is not only because a consistent universe helps people be more immersed," Baffodil added in an update, "but because most of these retcons change lore by Fallout's original creators, which gets really touchy to the older fans who started with Interplay and Black Isle's Fallout 1 and 2. I think the important thing is that these lore issues be highlighted so that perhaps in the future maybe these discrepancies can be explained or expanded upon by Bethesda, hopefully."

In an interview with GameSpot, Bethesda VP Pete Hines explained the studio's approach to lore in Fallout 76. "Our developers take things like lore and canon seriously, and if they're going to do something they're going to make sure that there's a real and defensible reason for it," Hines said. "We have proven with Elder Scrolls games, we're willing to say 'Well lots of people will say things happened one way,' and the opposite or something else could entirely be true. So there's no question that we've gone back to change things to fit what developers have wanted to do and not be beholden to something that somebody wrote 20 years ago even in franchises that we created like the Elder Scrolls." 

"But having said that, we don't take it lightly to just go 'Ah, we're just going to do whatever the hell we want,'" he said. "There has to be a thought process - what is the rationale? Why would this logically work in this time? Why would there be super mutants, or the Brotherhood of Steel? How does that all fit and hold together? There's absolutely reasons and explanations for how all that ties to Fallout 76."

So, what is the rationale for the Brotherhood of Steel's presence in Fallout 76? Yesterday, Bethesda took to Twitter and Instagram to explain: 

So, there you have it. Why is the Brotherhood of Steel in Fallout 76? Because they used a satellite to help chart their course across America and the Appalachian frontier was within their range. Does it make sense? Pretty much. Will it jibe with Fallout lore masters? Well, that remains to be seen.

The Fallout 76 beta starts next week. We've got everything you need to know about its content, duration, and how to sign up.  

Austin Wood

Austin freelanced for the likes of PC Gamer, Eurogamer, IGN, Sports Illustrated, and more while finishing his journalism degree, and he's been with GamesRadar+ since 2019. They've yet to realize that his position as a senior writer is just a cover up for his career-spanning Destiny column, and he's kept the ruse going with a focus on news and the occasional feature, all while playing as many roguelikes as possible.