So, I’m two sessions into my Fallout RPG campaign that I’m running. I’m going to start by saying that the “core” of the 2d20 system, the action point economy, and the flow of events in the course of play are all fun. But really, the point of this series is going to be exploring some of the weirder corners of the system, how they interact, and the numerous house rules I’d probably implement – in case they help anyone else playing the game.
To get it out of the way. I am playing with the pre-release PDF (Fallout Core Rulebook WEB 210412). The final rulebook release may be different and I’ll address that when we get it.
Let’s talk about Scavenging and Crafting.
Rather than the full range of junk items available in Fallout 4 (the clear source of the majority of inspiration for Fallout the RPG), the game includes crafting materials that come in three classes: Common, Uncommon, and Rare.
PCs cannot gain access to uncommon or rare materials on their own without the Scrapper perk. And those materials are only generated on Effects rolled on Combat Dice when scrapping (I’m still not sure why these are called Combat Dice instead of Effect Dice since they are used for so many things other than combat). And they gain access to the first rank of this perk at level 3 (access to uncommon materials), and to the second rank at level 8 (access to rare materials), at the earliest.
They can also potentially buy uncommon and rare materials. These are super cheap and so they don’t really create much of an obstacle for players who want to craft as long as they have access to a settlement at least as advanced as say, Rivet City or Diamond City. I think a legitimate question could be asked, “Who is producing these components?” as the requirements for breaking junk down into rare components is a minimum level of 8 and the average wastelander clocks in at level 2; with the Quartermaster in the sample adventure only being level 4. But that’s another issue.
Back to buying materials. The game sets out a procedure for buying materials from vendors that basically revolves around using your Luck score to check the inventory to find out if the item is available based on its Rarity. This is already problematic because it creates a really weird unstable state for shops that only makes sense if you have the highest Luck character in your party be the first to access the shop in town each time (more on Luck’s problems in another post).
But the game doesn’t define the rarity of uncommon and rare materials. And looking at the crafting rules does not help much. For example, Antibiotics require 2 rare materials to craft, but are only rarity 3. But looking at the chart for crafting materials by complexity of item doesn’t have rare materials show up until complexity 5 – which is more in line with the higher levels of armor mods… and as far as I can tell, mods don’t change an item’s rarity in the core rules. So no help there.
So, let’s assume, based on what is available and item rarities, that common materials are rarity 1, uncommon are rarity 2, and that rare are rarity 3. And using the Quartermaster as an average example of the typical shopkeeper, we get an average number of caps on hand around 63. A character with a Luck of 6, is mathematically likely to roll 2 effects, and with a bit of luck it’s not hard to imagine being able to roll 3 effects on the dice (Especially considering that you can re-roll up to 3 Combat Dice in any pool by spending a Luck point). It seems that players are going to get a better return on their investment simply by selling their junk to a vendor and procuring rare materials that way than they are by ever taking the scrapper perk – freeing up two perk slots to be used for other things. 2d20 junk = an average of 21 junk. 21 effect dice average 7 effects meaning 3 pieces of rare junk. If you sell all 21 junk to the vendor, you will get 42 caps, which can then translate directly into 8 rare materials. Or 5 rare materials, 5 uncommon materials, and 2 common materials. Sure, you’ll get less common materials and slightly less uncommon materials, but those are dirt cheap, always available, and you’ve saved yourself the hours of breaking down junk required. And you can do it from level 1.
This all, of course, assumes average rolling and access to a settlement – but for most campaigns, that’s probably a safe set of assumptions across the life of a campaign.
Overall, the weirdness of how things work out for materials and crafting is only one of the many foibles and quirks lurking in the cracks of this system. VATS is bad, many perks need rewrites, Luck is too powerful, and some skills are way too omnipresent (Survival) but those are fodder for other posts. Stay tuned.
Because War never changes.