GM Advice

Some special considerations apply to Fifth Edition Fallout games.


English is the most commonly encountered language in the American wasteland, but the GM might choose to make a language barrier part of an adventure to support a player character’s language choices and add flavour to the world, or as a puzzle that cannot be solved without finding a way to translate a clue.

For instance, an adventure that involves following the footsteps of a Chinese spy network would reasonably involve a lot of messages not just in Chinese, but also in code. Finding a translator or a dictionary would be just as much a part of the adventure as locating the code key.

Similarly, characters exploring an area that was heavily latino pre-War might find many of the records they discover are written in Spanish.

The Gun Club

In the world of Fallout, it’s rare for anyone to brave the wastes without at least one firearm in their inventory. In practical terms, this means that many engagements will start at range, and some will even remain firefights and never become a melee. Think about how that affects gameplay.

To keep things exciting, you want player characters and NPCs to do more than just hunker down behind the nearest cover. When planning encounters, consider making such cover temporary and/or destructible. Make sure that enemy groups also have melee-focused creatures in the mix which are tough enough to cross the distance to the PCs and strong enough to do some real damage once they’re in melee. Especially if one or more of your players has chosen to go for a melee build, since they need enemies to go toe to toe with.

Before throwing creatures without ranged options at your players, consider the encounter set up and how it might decrease the challenge of the encounter. If you place a Deathclaw 150 feet away from your PCs, then in a best case scenario (assuming it uses the Dash action and the PCs don’t retreat backwards as they shoot), it will only get to start making attacks in its second turn. Based on the attacks your players can bring to bear, how well will it survive their initial onslaught? Where it is logical that they could have been undetected, try to start encounters with melee enemies at closer range. Other options to correct for the wasted turns as a melee creature tries to close with the PCs include customising the creature (increased HP, temporary HP, regeneration, and boosted AC are all options, as are unique ranged attacks) as well as giving the creature a small number of less powerful allies. That said, if players make preparations to capitalise on a creature’s weakness, they should usually be rewarded. Sometimes several rounds worth of uninterrupted attacks on a powerful enemy is exactly what the players want! But be careful of letting them choose the conditions of the battlefield too often, as they will almost certainly do so. When unchecked, thats ultimately going to be to the detriment of the game’s challenge and excitement.

When you have a particular reason to want to limit gunplay, remember the concept of scarcity and how it acts as a safety valve on the use of powerful weapons: if you don’t provide ammunition for a particular weapon often, players will become cautious of using that weapon for fear of running out of ammunition in case they really need it later. Likewise, if you can force them to use that weapon against a powerful enemy, they do run out and won’t have the option of using it until you allow them to resupply. It’s also worth remembering that life in the post-apocalyptic world is harsh and many people are unscrupulous. There are ways to temporarily force characters to rely on melee: ammunition the characters purchase may turn out to be faulty. Some or all of their supplies might be stolen while they sleep. ake events like these rare, and when you do use them plan entire sessions around them: players are typically vengeful creatures, so you can expect them to want to track down culprits.

Doomsday Weapons

Rocket launchers, nukes, and other powerful weaponry are included for completeness but are clearly not as well-suited to a roleplaying game as they are the borderline superheroic action of an FPS RPG video game. Powerful explosives can and will obliterate your players’ characters at the push of a button or pull of a trigger. Sudden death might be exciting, but players probably won’t find it any fun. On the other hand, if the PCs manage to get their hands on their very own super weapon it could be a fun turn of events for them—but it could also disrupt the game significantly.

The long and short of it is you should introduce such weaponry only after careful consideration of the pros and cons, and it is recommended you only add a little bit at any one time. If a rocket launcher becomes available to the PCs, for instance, make sure its ammunition is limited.

Accordingly, most of the creatures in the Terrors of the Wasteland section are not equipped with this sort of doomsday weaponry by default, and you should be careful when using any that are.

Radiation Immunity Exceptions

Radiation typed damage and radiation poisoning are very dangerous to humans, who are one of the few types of creatures in the wasteland that has not evolved a significant tolerance to higher levels of radioactivity. Most other creature types are effectively immune to radiation typed damage and the radiation poisoning condition. Being immune to the game effects of radiation is not necessarily the same as being immmune to radiation altogether—some such creatures might still suffer longer term effects, particularly mutations. It’s up to you to adjudicate how and if long term or extreme radiation exposure can impact creatures that are normally treated by the game as immune (such as ghouls and wasteland animals) when they might not be truly impervious in all circumstances.

NPCs and Ammunition

As noted in the equipment section, ammunition can be quite scarce. Nevertheless, it's usually not worth the headache of assigning each hostile creature a specific, arbitrary amount of each type of ammunition it needs for its weapons. Simply assume that an NPC has as much ammo as they need to fire their weapon until they are defeated or no longer need to fire it. You may wish to limit a creature's access to explosives or ammunition for more powerful weapon types, however.

Ammunition as Loot

Like other items and forms of salvage, you can control when and how your players gain access to ammunition, and how many of each ammo type they receive.

Ammunition as an Enemy Drop

While you are never obliged to give players ammunition simply because a defeated enemy carried one or more guns, in most circumstances it is fairly logical that a person would have at least a few bullets left. A good rule of thumb is to keep ammo looted from enemies low, with more powerful enemies corresponding to larger ammo drops (remember they require more ammo to defeat).

If you prefer to take the decision making out of ammo drops, consider rolling randomly using the following charts:

  • Randomly determine ammunition for the creature's lowest damage weapon using the table Random Ammo Drops By Lowest Damage Weapon.
  • If the creature has two or more weapons, determine ammunition for the next lowest damage weapon using the table Random Ammo Drops By Second Lowest Damage Weapon.
  • If the creature has three weapons, determine ammunition for the next lowest damage weapon using the table Random Ammo Drops By Third Lowest Damage Weapon.

Random Ammo Drops By Lowest Damage Weapon

Creature CR Single Fire Weapon Burst Fire Weapon Heavy Weapon
1-4 1d6 1d4 1d2-1
5-10 2d6 2d4 1d3-1
11-16 3d6 3d4 1d4-1
17-20 4d6 4d4 1d6-1
21-24 5d6 5d4 1d8-1
25-28 6d6 6d4 1d10-1
29-30 7d6 7d4 1d12-1

Random Ammo Drops By Second Lowest Damage Weapon

Creature CR Single Fire Weapon Burst Fire Weapon Heavy Weapon
1-4 1d4 1d2 0
5-10 2d4 1d4 1d2-1
11-16 3d4 2d4 1d3-1
17-20 4d4 3d4 1d4-1
21-24 5d4 4d4 1d6-1
25-28 6d4 5d4 1d8-1
29-30 7d4 6d4 1d10-1

Random Ammo Drops By Third Lowest Damage Weapon

Creature CR Single Fire Weapon Burst Fire Weapon Heavy Weapon
1-4 1d2 0 0
5-10 1d4 1d2 0
11-16 2d4 1d4 1d2-1
17-20 3d4 2d4 1d3-1
21-24 4d4 3d4 1d4-1
25-28 5d4 4d4 1d6-1
29-30 6d4 5d4 1d8-1

By default, ammunition is only available to loot from the corpses of dead foes if you say it is. Exactly how much ammunition and of what types a creature has in their possession when killed or otherwise defeated is entirely up to you.

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.