Fallout Friday: Judging A Book By Its Errors

My experiences with the Fallout RPG so far have been an interesting mixed bag. On the one hand, I’ve enjoyed the 2d20 system more than I expected. The core of the system is quite clean and easy to pick up. The combat rules are pretty straightforward. The give and take of player control over their spendable resources is balanced in an interesting way. Overall, it’s a very solid core to a game that I was skeptical of and have been converted to appreciating it.

That said… The conversion of the Fallout universe into the 2d20 system is not very good. The game immediately makes a myriad of mistakes that were easy to see coming. Luck is broken and very subjective. Perks are all over the place from nigh-useless to must-have. There are obvious and easy builds that just crack the game wide open. Charisma is a true dump stat.

The game attempts to blend the perk system of Fallout 4 (which had no skills) with the skill systems of earlier games (which had both perks and skills) with dubious results. And some skills – like Survival – are basically just used for 75% of the rolls you’ll make in a session.

This problem of perks and skills trails over into the crafting system – which they attempted to pull from Fallout 4 wholesale – and which is a total mess. It’s here that the book really starts to feel like a beta attempt. The crafting rules are incredibly inconsistent and clunky. Some really important aspects of crafting are just glossed over and some parts are too detailed with very little good middle ground. The charts needed for crafting are spread across three chapters. This just adds to the existing problem that everything you need to know about your equipment are spread all over three chapters. And some important rules are just dumped into one-off sentences that are easy to overlook as you are trying to grasp the rules.

This problem of rules that are just tossed in randomly in a single sentence and never referenced again happens in all sections of the book. Like how injuries work. That came as a surprise to all of us – and when I realized what we’d missed – I still had to read it again to realize exactly how the rule was supposed to work.

To be fair to Fallout, I don’t have the final book – this was just the pre-release that was sent out to those who pre-ordered the game. So maybe there will be some improvement in the release version. Or maybe there won’t. If the timeline is how it seems, then they were already printing the physical books by the time they put this PDF in our hands. So maybe this is what we get. Who knows?

Ultimately, my final verdict is that it’s good enough to play – but – after running it once, I’d feel the need to take the core of what they’d built and re-write almost every aspect of the game before I’d run it again. There is so much that needs tweaking and house-rules that it won’t even be the same game. And at that point, why even run someone else’s game?

So, this was more rumination than actual analysis. Again, I’m trying not to be too harsh before I see the final release version. But I’m sure I’ll come back to this topic once I have that in my hands.

As always, thanks for reading.

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