The Fallout games are never lacking in action-packed moments, and the perils of the Wasteland often require violence to resolve. Talking your way out of one problem just means you’ve saved a few bullets for the next problem.
So, Fallout 2d20 naturally has an assortment of combat rules to play out these desperate struggles for survival, frantic gunfights, and other violent altercations.
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Characters all have an Initiative score, based on their Agility and Perception, which determines the order in which they act in combat, and every character gets a single turn each round. This isn’t randomized—a character with a total Initiative of 10 always acts before one with an Initiative of 9—but a character that wants to act sooner than their turn would normally be can use their Luck to find an opportunity to act earlier in the round.
On your character’s turn, you get a Major Action and a Minor Action, and you can spend Action Points—earned by getting extra successes on Skill Tests, as mentioned in a previous blog post—to take extra actions on your turn (up to one of each) if you really need to get something done.
Minor actions are simple things like moving a short distance, using a stimpak, or aiming. Major actions include attacking, taking extra effort to protect yourself, or performing first aid on an ally, and these actions normally require a skill test.
Attacking in Fallout is simple: it’s a skill test. The difficulty is the Defense score of whatever you’re attacking, and the attribute and skill used are determined by the weapon you’re using to attack: a pistol uses AGI + Small Guns, while a bare fist uses STR + Unarmed.
If your skill test succeeds, then the attack is successful and you inflict damage. Every weapon has a damage rating, which is the number of Combat Dice you roll to determine how much damage you inflict. You can add extra Combat Dice to this rating in some circumstances, by using more ammunition (if you’re firing a gun) or having a high Strength and spending Action Points (for a melee attack).
Combat Dice are six-sided dice, marked with a 1, a 2, two blank faces, and two faces showing the Vault Boy face, which are referred to as Effects. When you roll these dice, you normally roll several at once, add up the total. Effects count as 1 towards the total, but they also have extra benefits. If you don’t have Combat Dice, normal six-sided dice will do: count rolls of 1 and 2 normally, ignore any rolls of 3 or 4, and treat 5s and 6s as Effects.
The amount of damage you inflict is the total rolled on the Combat Dice. The target reduces this total with any damage reduction they have from armor they wear, perks they have, or being in cover. Any damage left over reduces the target’s Health Points. If you inflict five or more damage (after damage reduction) in one go, you inflict a Critical Hit, which injures the location you’ve hit, making the target less effective at fighting back.
A target reduced to zero Health Points takes an injury, falls prone, and begins to die. Player characters bleed out slow, but they can be saved with some quick medical attention. Non-player characters tend not to be so fortunate.
Damage comes in a few types—physical, energy, radiation, and poison—and characters will likely have different amounts of damage reduction for each, so picking the right weapon can sometimes involve checking what kind of target you’re facing.
Lost Health Points come back easily enough: a bit of rest, something to eat or drink, or a bit of first aid or a stimpak can get a character back on their feet easily enough. Injuries don’t heal as easily or as quickly: they can be treated to lessen their effects, but there’s a risk that an injury might reopen if you take more damage there, and they’ll only heal fully with time and rest.
Radiation is even worse than normal damage, unless you’re a Super Mutant, a Robot, or a Ghoul (indeed, Ghouls love radiation). Radiation damage reduces the target’s maximum Health Points, and this reduction lasts until you can take some RadAway. Normal first aid won’t help, nor will stimpaks.