Fallout: A Post Nuclear Role Playing Game is a critically-acclaimed computer role-playing game produced by Tim Cain and published by Interplay in 1997. Although set in the late 22nd century, its story and artwork are heavily influenced by the post-World War II nuclear paranoia of the 1950s. The game is sometimes considered to be an unofficial sequel to Wasteland, but it could not use that title as Electronic Arts held the rights to it, and, except for minor references, the games are set in separate universes. It was also intended to use Steve Jackson Games's GURPS system, but that deal fell through, supposedly when Steve Jackson realized how violent the game was. A sequel, Fallout 2: A Post Nuclear Role Playing Game, was released in 1998.
Fallout uses a character creation system called SPECIAL (an acronym and initialism of Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck). These are the seven basic attributes of every character in the game, used to determine the character's skills and perks. These attributes also change the percentage skills initially start at. For example if strength is raised then the Science skill is lowered and the Melee Weapons skill is raised.
There are 18 different skills in the game, ranked from 0% to 300%. The starting values for those skills at Level 1 are determined by the player's 7 basic attributes, but most of those skills initially fall between 0% and 50%. Every time the player gains a level, points are awarded that can be used to improve the character's skills, equal to 5 points + twice his Intelligence. The player may choose to "Tag" 3 of the 18 skills. A tagged skill will improve at twice the normal rate.
- 6 combat skills: Small Guns, Big Guns, Energy Weapons, Unarmed, Melee Weapons, Throwing.
- 8 active skills: First Aid, Doctor, Sneak, Lockpick, Steal, Traps, Science, Repair.
- 4 passive skills: Speech, Barter, Gambling, Outdoorsman.
Books found throughout the gameworld can also improve some of those skills permanently, although books are scarce early in the game. However, after a skill reaches a certain level, books no longer have any impact. Some NPCs can also improve Skills via training. How high a Skill can be developed is affected by the character's Attributes - a character with a low Intelligence will not be able to boost their Science rating as high as a character with high Intelligence, for example.
Some skills can also be improved while having certain items equipped - for example, equipping a lock pick improves lock-picking skills. Stimulants can also temporarily boost player's skills; however, they often have adverse effects such as addiction and withdrawal. As Skills grow higher in rating, they begin to cost more Skill Points to increase.
Traits and Perks
Traits are special character qualities which often have profound effects on gameplay. At character creation, the player may choose two optional traits for his character. Traits typically carry benefits coupled with detrimental effects; for example, being "small-boned" improves sneaking and stealing ability, but negatively affects heavy weapon skills and maximum carrying capacity. Once a Trait is chosen, it is impossible to change, except by using the "Mutate" Perk that allows a player to change one Trait, one time.
Perks in the game are special elements of the level up system. Every 3 levels (or every 4 if the player chose the "Skilled" Trait), the player is granted a perk of his choosing. Perks grant special effects, most of which are not obtainable via normal level up in the game, such as letting the player have more actions per round. Unlike traits, most perks are purely beneficial - they are usually offset only by the infrequency of acquiring them.
The game is set in a post-apocalyptic world following The Great War, a nuclear war that occurred on 23 October 2077. Lasting less than two hours, the war caused immense damage and destruction. Before The Great War were the Resource Wars, during which the United Nations disbanded, a plague rendered the United States paranoid, and Canada was annexed.
The game takes place in 2161 in Southern California and begins in Vault 13, the protagonist's home. Vault 13's Water Chip, a computer chip responsible for the water recycling and pumping machinery, has broken. The Vault Overseer tasks the protagonist with finding a replacement. He or she is given a portable device called the "PIPBoy 2000" which keeps track of mapmaking, quest objectives, and various bookkeeping aspects. Armed with the PIPBoy 2000 and meager equipment, the protagonist is sent out into the remains of California to find another Water Chip.
The protagonist of Fallout is an inhabitant of one of the government-contracted fallout shelters known as Vaults. In subsequentFallout games, he or she is referred to as the Vault Dweller. There are four playable chracters to choose from:
- Albert - Charasmatic build.
- Natalia - Stealth build.
- Max Stone - Strength build.
- Vault Dweller - Custom build.
The protagonist is governed by the SPECIAL character system, which was designed specifically for Fallout and is used in the other games in the series.
A diverse selection of various recruitable Non-player characters (NPCs) can be found to aid the player in the post-apocalyptic wasteland. Unlike in Fallout 2, there is no limit to the number of NPCs that the player may recruit in Fallout. NPCs' statistics and armor remain unchanged through the entire game; only their weapons may be upgraded.
- Ian, found in Shady Sands, is the first recruitable NPC that the player meets. He is an experienced traveler and gunman. Ian can equip any pistol or SMG, and wears a leather jacket.
- The player first meets Tandi in Shady Sands. She is bored with the town, and yearns for excitement. She is eventually kidnapped by the Khans, and the player may choose to rescue her. After she is rescued, she will follow the player anywhere as long as she does not return to Shady Sands, thus functioning as an unofficial recruitable NPC. Tandi appears again as the president of the New California Republic in Fallout 2.
- Dogmeat is the only non-human NPC that the player may recruit. Dogmeat can be found in Junktown, outside of Phil's house, preventing him from entering his house. The player may attract Dogmeat by either wearing a leather jacket or feeding the dog an iguana-on-a-stick. After that, Dogmeat will follow the player. Dogmeat also re-appears in Fallout 2 as an easter egg and a recruitable NPC.
- Tycho is a former Desert Ranger, now living in Junktown. He can wield rifles, shotguns, and spears.
- Katja may be recruited in the library in the LA Boneyard. She can fight unarmed and wield pistols and SMGs.
Major Characters 
Major characters are distinguished from other characters as they are talking heads. Talking Heads are three dimensional images of characters and are fully voiced instead of regular characters who are just in game sprites and have no voice.
- Jacoren - The Overseer of the Vault 13.
- Aradesh - Leader of the Shady Sands community and he is the father of the temporary compainion Tandi.
- Tandi - She is a temporary companion of the Vault Dweller and is the daughter of Aradesh.
- Killian Darkwater - Mayor of Junktown.
- Gizmo- The owner of Gizmo's casino in Junktown.
- Butch Harris - Head of the Far Go Traders merchants.
- Decker - The local crime boss of the Hub. He also runs a casino there.
- Harold - A mutant who resides in the Hub.
- Loxley - Leader of the Guild.
- Jain - A Children of the Cathedral representative in the Hub.
- Set - Leader of the Necropolis Ghouls.
- Harry - Leader of the Mutant group in the Necropolis watershed.
- Nicole - Leader of the Followers of the Apocalypse.
- Cabbot - Brotherhood of Steel door guard.
- John Maxson - The High Elder of the Brotherhood of Steel.
- Rhombus - Brotherhood of Steel Head Palidin.
- Vree - Brotherhood of Steel Head Scribe.
- Lieutenant - Leader of the mutants at the Mariposa Millitary Base.
- Morpheus - Leader of the Children of the Cathedral.
- Laura - Followers of the Apocalypse spy.
- Master - Supreme leader of the mutants and is worshipped by the Children of the Cathedral.
The player initially has 150 days before the Vault's water supply runs out. This time limit can be extended by 70 days if he commissions merchants in the Hub to send water caravans to Vault 13. Upon returning the chip, the Vault Dweller is then tasked by The Overseer, in destroying a mutant army that threatens Vault 13's safety. A mutant known as "The Master" (previously known as Richard Grey) has begun using a pre-war, genetically engineered virus called Forced Evolutionary Virus to convert humanity into a race of "Super Mutants", and bring them together in the Unity, his plan for a perfect world. The player is to kill him and destroy the Military Base housing the supply of FEV, thus halting the invasion before it can start.
If the player does not complete both objectives within 500 game days, the mutant army will discover Vault 13 and invade it, bringing an end to the game. This time limit is shortened to 400 days if the player divulged Vault 13's location to the water merchants. A cinematic cut-scene of mutants overrunning the vault is shown if the player fails to stop the mutant army within this time frame, indicating the player has lost the game. If the player agrees to join the mutant army, the same cinematic is shown.
In version 1.1 of the game, the time limit for the mutant attack on Vault 13 is eliminated, allowing players to explore the game world at their leisure.
The player can defeat the Master and destroy the Super Mutants' Military Base in either order. When both threats are eliminated, a cut-scene ensues in which the player automatically returns to Vault 13. There he is told that he has changed too much and his return would negatively influence the citizens of the Vault as a negative role model. Thus he is rewarded with exile into the desert, for, in the Overseer's eyes, the good of the vault. There is an alternate non-canon ending in which the Vault Dweller draws a handgun and shoots the Overseer after he is told to go in exile. This ending is inevitable if the player has the "Bloody Mess" trait or has accrued significant negative karma throughout the game. It can also be triggered if the player initiates combat in the brief time after the Overseer finishes his conversation but before the ending cut-scene.