The post-apocalyptic wasteland is full of items: junk, abandoned weapons and other valuables, Pre-war machinery and improvised wasteland tech, and precious water and preserved foods are all examples of things that can be found out in the ruins of civilisation.

The Value of a Thing

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and that has never been truer than it is in the wasteland. An explorer may not have much need for a sheet of scrap metal, but if she can carry it back to a settlement they will almost certainly pay handsomely given that they can put it to a number of uses including repairs or as a crafting material.

Meanwhile, a set of pool balls with the three, seven, and eight balls missing might seem like a complete waste of space in the wanderer’s pack, until he goes to a bar in the next town he visits and finds out the owner is trying to piece together a complete set for his pool table.

An art piece or curio from the Pre-war is usually almost valueless when compared to a practical item like a gun, but might be worth a few caps to someone interested in improving the decor of their shack. But to the right eccentric collector, such as a Freak who misses her Pre-war luxuries, a painting, a china dog, or even a particular brand of gum might be of significant worth, even priceless.

The principal of supply and demand is alive and well in the wasteland. The sale value of any item, or of salvage, may very depending on the wants and needs of a potential purchaser. By the same token, it may be far more difficult to purchase supplies such as food if there is no surplus relative to the locals’ own needs.


While there are few governments to legitimise money nor functioning mints in which to make it, the descendants of nuclear survivors have found it convenient to build an economy of sorts using legacies of the past. The currency of the new world is based on bottlecaps. There are no denominations: to wastelanders, a cap is a cap and each has equivalent worth in trade.

A few places, such as the New California Republic, are attempting to establish their own legitimate currencies with mixed success.

Alternatives to Currency

While wasteland traders like to deal with caps for convenience it is perfectly possible to deal with them for a lifetime without ever touching a coin.

Almost every trader will accept other items in place of caps. A whole caste of wasteland scavengers essentially make their living salvaging the junk of Pre-war ruins and giving what they find to a trader partner in exchange for food, water, and other essentials. Some traders actually prefer to deal in object trades rather than caps. Raiders also appreciate the convenience of caps, so may not attack a caravan with a reputation for carrying no money unless desperate for supplies.

Some wastelanders also find that ammunition makes for a great trade item, and ammo exchange is such a common practice that it effectively functions as a secondary economy. Bullets are fairly portable, and in effect also have “denominations” given they can be traded by the box-full. They always have inherent value, too—there is literally no one in the wasteland who doesn’t need bullets, so traders will always happily take them off a wastelander’s hands. It is therefore common practice to exchange unneeded ammunition for useful ammunition, caps, or other equipment and supplies.

Characters and Caps

GMs may either continue to use starting gold values for classes (converting gold into caps) or set a standard amount used by all characters. At 1st level, 180 caps is a decent amount. This represents a significant sum by the standard of any normal wastelander, but factors in several considerations. Firstly, that heroic characters are special even before their adventuring career begins, so may have access to resources or lucky windfalls that regular folk do not. Second, the character’s starting equipment is probably not purchased all at once but over their entire history, or inherited from family or a mentor.

At higher levels, the amount of caps a character acquires is solely at the discretion of their GM. Caps are usually handed out as loot during an adventure (scavenged from fallen foes or ruins) or as payment for services rendered. The GM may also choose to reward characters either fully or in part with alternative payments such as salvage or ammunition.


Some items are given values in caps. Everything else—items that you might consider useless “junk” — is abstracted into a resource known as salvage.

Salvage represents an average value and weight for the myriad junk items scavengers might pick up while exploring the wasteland.

The value of a piece of salvage is generally the same as the value of one cap. However, while the value of a cap is always constant (either “one”, or on rare occasions “zero” if a character encounters someone who won’t accept caps) the value of salvage can fluctuate depending on local supply and demand. When there is a great need for salvage, each piece may be worth 2 or more caps. Where salvage is common, characters may need to trade 2 or more pieces for every coin that is returned.

Salvage affects encumbrance. A character’s salvage has a weight of 0.4 lb. multiplied by the number of salvage points.

Salvage can also be used as a raw material when crafting items. Typically, a character requires an equivalent amount of salvage to the item’s coin cost in order to make it.


No matter what the item is, a universal rule applies to all equipment available in the wasteland: anything that isn’t junk is either Pre-war or manufactured in limited quantities, so it is rare. Even in places where a particular type of item is more common, resources are a far cry from limitless.

Even junk is not an endless resource. Eventually, everything in a given area that can be salvaged will be salvaged.

In a world such as this, characters should be concerned where their next meal is coming from and whether they can afford to use precious ammunition to kill that pack of feral ghouls over the hill or whether they need to risk going in swinging.

Any time after character creation that a character wishes to buy an item, they may find that a trader does not have one to sell, and when there is availability of consumables such as food, water, medicine, or ammunition it is likely to be in a relatively small quantity. In some cases the trader might be concealing a reserve supply which they may be persuaded to part with by suitable diplomacy or the offer of more money. But most of the time, what they offer is all they can sell.
When things are for sale, they are often incomplete: for instance, an armour vendor is as likely or more to sell odd pieces than a complete set, and characters may have to do with piecemeal sets of armour until they can find matching parts.

The same is true about items found out in the wastes and the ruins. While it’s certainly likely that a discovered weapon is probably loaded and there might be spare ammunition in the vicinity, it’s not guaranteed. Armour found by a wanderer is as likely to be piecemeal or incomplete as it is in a store.


Firearms use a variety of different types of ammunition. When a character come across a hidden cache or loot ammo from a defeated enemy, it may or may not be the correct type of ammunition for their preferred weapon. Accordingly, it’s generally wise for characters not to play favourites, and carry two or three firearms with different caliber requirements. That way, the chances that they can keep at least one of the weapons loaded are higher.

Fallout is the sole intellectual property of Bethesda Softworks. This is purely a fan work. Rules presented work with D&D 5e. Text and game mechanics presented in this wiki are not Open Game Content and should not be reproduced or repackaged in any way.