This is about the game series; if you're looking for radioactive fallout see The Deadliest Mushroom.The Fallout game franchise is set in a post-apocalyptic setting with a twist: the pre-war society never got out of the 1950s setting. The timeline diverged from reality shortly after World War II, and society progressed much in the way it was envisioned to in that time, with very heavy Atom Punk / Art Deco styling, until its nuclear end.It has been many decades since the winds of the apocalypse blew in over America and took the old world with it, leaving only the Wasteland in its place. The event, known as "The Great War", was the culmination of a long and bloody struggle between USA and China over the last oil in the world. It came in the form of a massive global nuclear attack, which in two hours bathed the Earth in fire and radiation and ended all human civilization. But the human race is stubborn, and not so easily eradicated, and now small societies are starting to pop up all over the North American mainland, and you, the player, can either help them prosper or take away their hope, and watch them wither and die. As it's fairly obvious, the Wasteland is not a very nice place to live.Arguably one of the best examples of how to make a nonlinear RPG ever, the original two Fallout games are loved by a small but passionate audience across the world, who laud the game's intuitive turn-based action and detailed world building, which takes its atmosphere from The Fifties' pop-culture and Weird Science stories from Pulp Magazines. The biggest draw is the way the games - particularly Fallout 2 - allow the player to do pretty much whatever they want.Character creation is very flexible, letting the player specify their age, race, sex, physical and mental statistics, known skills, and special talents. The player is then dumped into a post-apocalyptic wasteland with a distant end goal, no clear means of how to reach it, and a map that gives directions only as far as the nearest settlement.It quickly becomes clear that Fallout is very flexible when it comes to completing goals. For example, upon entering a crime-ridden area, the player can help the sheriff to take down the crooks, help the crooks take over the town, or Take a Third Option and mindlessly slaughter every living thing in sight (Hey, at least there's no more crime! Well, except for that guy who killed everyone...). A Karma Meter tracks the player's behavior, and affects the reaction of other NPCs; if you're too good then criminals won't trust you with their missions, but being too evil means the same for law-abiding folks. If you ever gain "child killer" status you'll be ostracized by almost everyone. Even other outlaws.Fallout 2 takes this even further, with the player able to gain all kinds of different statuses. They can be deputized into the police force, become a porn star, join the Slavers and sell captured tribespeople (or their own NPC friends!), join "The Brotherhood of Steel," go grave robbing, or become made men in the post-apocalyptic Mafia. They can even choose to play with an Intelligence score of 1, which makes them barely smart enough to speak, and completely changes the way the game plays.Sadly, the multitude of options made the sequel incredibly buggy and virtually unplayable without patches (included in today's jewel case versions, so you have no excuse not to play it). Still, despite isometric 2D graphics that look distinctly crude by today's standards, the Fallout games continue to appeal to thousands worldwide because of their incredible depth.The original Fallout games were followed by a pair of spin-offs. The PC-based Fallout Tactics was a Tactical RPG which focused on squad-based tactical combat. Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel for the Playstation 2 and Xbox was a 3D, above-viewed Hack and Slash that challenged the player to wipe up the wasteland as a member of one of the clans from the original games. They both received variable reviews, although Fallout Tactics has built up a cult following, Brotherhood of Steel never gained all that many enthusiasts.The developer, Black Isle, had nearly completed a third game in the Fallout series, code-named "Van Buren", when parent company Interplay Entertainment went bankrupt and shut them down. After spending several years as Vaporware, Interplay sold the rights to the series to Bethesda, best known for The Elder Scrolls, to save themselves from bankruptcy.Bethesda chose to start development of Fallout 3 from scratch; their game was released October 2008, and is a fully-three-dimensional game with light FPS elements. It follows a Vault Dweller from Vault 101 as he or she searches for a lost father. The FPS elements were integrated well into the experience.On April 20, 2009, Bethesda Softworks announcedFallout: New Vegas, with Obsidian Entertainment as the developers. The game came out on October 19th, 2010 in North America and October 22nd in Europe (the days the bombs fell) on the PC, Xbox 360 and PS3. Somewhat ironically, Obsidian is run by Black Isle refugees, the developers of the first two Fallout titles, and several Obsidian employees worked on Black Isle's original Van Buren project. Fan reaction is perhaps best described as "a tiny spark of hope shining through lots and lots of cynicism."List of Fallout titles (in chronological order):
Fallout: New Vegas: An RPG by Obsidian very much in the same vein as Fallout 3, released in October 2010. Despite not being a numbered entry in the series it is more of a direct sequel to Fallout 2, continuing the story of the New California Republic and featuring a few returning characters, or their descendants, from the previous games.
Fallout: Van Buren: The original Fallout 3, canceled due to Interplay's bankruptcy which caused the closing of Black Isle. Despite never being released, it is still considered partially canon and several story elements were reused in both Fallout 3 and New Vegas.
Fallout Extreme: Working title for a canceled project briefly developed by 14 Degrees East which would have been a sequel to Fallout Tactics released on the Xbox. It would have apparently been a first-person/third-person squad-based tactics game with strategic overworld management similar to Jagged Alliance, but never got past the concept stage.
Abdicate the Throne: So to speak. Sometimes the diplomatic solution in regime-change type quests involves the officeholder stepping down willingly.
Absurdly Dedicated Worker: Many robots in the series continue to (try to) carry out tasks assigned to them in the prewar years, completely unaware that over a hundred years have passed since America was devastated by nuclear war and their old masters are long dead.
Absurdly High Level Cap: Skills in the first two games cap at 300%, though for most of them 100% is all you need (and for the others, like combat-related skills, you tend to stop getting benefits from them just before 150%.)
Absurdly Sharp Claws: In the possession of the aptly nameddeathclaws, genetically engineered killing machines with claws the size of machetes. In each game they are one of the toughest commonly occurring enemies, and their claws can even be MacGyvered into one of the more deadly unarmed weapons in the game.
Abusive Precursors: The Enclave, the remnants of the éminence grise of the United States federal government, the main antagonists of the second and third games.
The Think Tank also qualifies: mad scientists who were responsible for various horrible experiments carried out on political prisoners.
Action Girl: Any female PC can choose to be an Action Girl. There's even a Perk with this name for female characters (and Action Boy for male).
An Aesop: The tentative aesop of the whole series, especially New Vegas, is to let go of the past, both the glorious and the hardships, as clinging to them risks harm to the world of the present and misuse of the old war values and technology can lead to disaster. Several major antagonists cling to the past or use outdated and old values to guide their way, and it's why they're antagonists:
The Enclave believes in America and wants to restore it to glory and retake their place as the ruling government. The reality is their power is in-name-only and they're really just a band of mass-murderers who want to rule the wasteland and have some really advanced technology to push around others as they try to enforce their self-declared claim.
The Brotherhood of Steel is devoted to the Codex, which tells them they are to find and hoard old world technology to keep it out of the hands of those unfit to use it. The West Coast faction of the Brotherhood descend into Knight Templar behavior and may be wiped out, the East Coast tosses the Codex aside in favor of helping people and (after a brief civil war caused by this action) prospers.
Ulysses cannot get over the destruction of Hopeville and thinks Caesar and the NCR appropriate old world symbols with no respect or understanding of their meaning. You can talk him into seeing the hope in their actions and convince him to give them a chance to learn from their mistakes. Or if the Courier chose the Independent path, convince him that a free Mojave can prosper into the same kind of community, allowing the spirit of Hopeville to live again.
Caesar's Legion from New Vegas is an especially blatant one, as their leader is intentionally seeking to rebuild a new Roman Empire in the American West that's as faithful a replica of the first one as possible — including the slavery, misogyny, and other assorted social ills that made it a rather rotten place to live by modern standards.
On the other hand Caesar's Legion are no more different than a larger band of raiders, as their economy mostly relies on Rape, Pillage, and Burn and in the long run this is not a good means to maintain a real society, as they are not self sufficient as NCR, who can outlast Legion in a war of attrition.
Another aesop is the impact one person can make on the world if they have the will to make a difference. In all four of the main series games, your player character becomes a Messianic Archetype, strengthening trade routes, leading struggling towns to prosperity, showing people the value of virtue and honor, and eradicating enemies that try to stamp it all out. New Vegas in particular has a strong theme of couriers and the messages and packages they carry delivering more messages than they may realize, and it's revealed your actions have shaped the fate of the entire West Coast long before you ever got hired by House.
After the End: Nobody knew who fired the first missile that triggered the apocalypse, and by the end of the day, nobody cared. It was considered the end of the world. But still, humanity survived - mutated, blood thirsty, and completely shattered - but the world moved on. The Great War wasn't the end, simply one more sad chapter.
The Ageless: Ghouls, as part of their Cursed with Awesome traits mentioned below, apparently no longer age. Throughout the series, you'll meet several of each who were alive before the war and you never hear of one dying from non-violent means. Eastern Super Mutants also seem to be immortal, although they grow physically and devolve mentally as they age.
The western supermutants as well, except no deterioration. IE Marcus was mutade when Master was alive, and he was already an adult human, as were all subjects. roughly 120 years later during New Vegas he is as fit as ever
A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Varies quite a bit. Artificial intelligences are rare, bulky, immobile machines in Fallout - With the exception of Commonwealth 'androids'. Some intelligences are sane and helpful. Some are unstable but relatively harmless. A few are villains.
All Crimes Are Equal: Insofar as the idea of "crime" can exist in a society with no more centralized legal structure, any sort of wrongdoing will typically be met with the same sort of response — everyone in the settlement attacks you. Take a step into a place you aren't allowed, steal a bottle of Nuka-Cola, even just being a Jerkass to the wrong person, and you can expect violence. Subverted in some settlements with jails and order, in these places you can actually be imprisoned. New Vegas gives a Hand Wave that NCR's troops are miserable due to the state of the Mojave and this is why they're so on-edge and don't care to punish crimes fairly, but it's still silly that a dozen armored troops will open fire on you just for taking a tin can off the floor that was marked as owned.
Alternate History: The Fallout timeline diverges from the real world just after World War II. Without the invention of the transistor, the social, political, and technological status quo of The Fifties endured well into the late 21st century. The changes are minor at first but continue to cascade as the decades go by. Briefly: rather than progressing to thermonuclear bombs, the military focuses on smaller-yield atom bombs to increase their tactical utility. The space race unrolls differently (although the first moon landing is off by only a few days.) Federal power snowballs as the military-industrial complex takes over entirely. The states (except Hawaii, whose status is unclear) are rebuilt into 13 'commonwealths.' Communism continues to thrive in China (Russia, if still Communist, seems to play a minor role.) A-bombs are joined by practical laser, gauss, and plasma-projection technology. Foreseeing trouble, the US commissions private industries (notably Vault-Tec) to construct bunkers that will allow at least some Americans to survive the warnote (and for... other reasons). Through the mid-21st century, struggles over resources erupt into wars, leading to wars between a united Europe and the Arabian states: this is followed by a larger dispute between China and the US over oil: the invasion of Alaska: the US annexing Canada: and, finally, unlimited atomic war. Eighty years later, Fallout 1 begins.
Always Chaotic Evil: The majority of the Vault 87 Super Mutants in the third game (likely justified by the FEV there having different properties). Averted with the Super Mutants created in Mariposa, although many are hostile anyway, due to your choices in game. The various raider/gang factions usually fall in this category too.
Ammunition Backpack: The Minigun, Grenade Machine-gun, Flamer, and Gatling laser from Fallout 3 onwards.
Ancient Conspiracy: The Vaults were never meant to save anybody. The Enclave, a cabal of members of the government and some powerful MegaCorps, were considering colonizing an entirely new world once Earth was laid waste, but wanted to know if people could handle generation ships. So the Vault Experiment was hatched: except for a handful of "control" Vaults, every supposed shelter would have a flaw that would test the population inside. One was deliberately overcrowded, one's door would never close all the way, one was inhabited by a thousand men and one woman (another had the same setup, but flipped the roles), one would pump hallucinogenic gas in the air systems, one was a test to see how an all-powerful Overseer would behave, and so forth, with cameras and uplinks sending all the data to a secret command and control Vault.
Apocalypse How: The Great War caused a Planetwide Class 2. Fortunately, civilization has been slowly rebuilding, and by the time of Fallout: New Vegas, the less scorched and anarchic areas of the world have small but functioning cultures.
Apocalypse Anarchy: That's all the Fallout-verse is. Civilization collapsed, and it's up to you to save/destroy the remains.
Apocalyptic Logistics: Ammo and pre-war guns, though not always in the best of condition, are still common enough to be in the hands of most mooks, factions, and merchants. Energy weapons are rarer (though the few that still have the means crank out post-war replicas). Despite the 80-210 years (depending on the game) since the bombs fell, pre-war supplies can still be found in abundance in ruined buildings, in areas with beings that would have had found them and used them long before the game even started.
Arcology: The vaults themselves. Officially, the vaults were nuclear shelters designed to protect the American population from nuclear holocaust. However, with a population of almost 400 million by 2077, the U.S. would need nearly 400,000 vaults the size of Vault 13, while Vault-Tec was commissioned to build only 122 such vaults. The government, and Vault-Tec, never really believed an atomic war would occur; the real reason for the existence of these vaults was to run social experiments on pre-selected segments of the population to see how they react to the stresses of isolation and how successfully they recolonize Earth (or another planet) after the vault opens. Seventeen vaults were the control and worked as advertised; the rest had a deliberate experimental flaw. Some of these experiments were understandable (from a sociological viewpoint), while others were 'mad science' to begin with. Here is a full list of (known) vaults and the experiment conducted.
Arc Words: "War. War never changes." Revisited and redefined in the New Vegas DLC Lonesome Road, with the idea "war never changes, but men can".
"Life in x is about to change" appears with rather satisfying regularity. For 1, x was "the Vault" and in Tactics it's "the Brotherhood".
Armed with Canon: When Chris Avellone, who began his involvement in the series as a designer on Fallout 2, got promoted to lead designer for the cancelled original version of Fallout 3 he used the supplementary Fallout Bible which he wrote to kill off or retcon elements in the series he didn't like.
In the first two games they will liberally use burst weapons and grenades if they have them and are able to use them, the former is very likely to kill you if you're in the way, and the latter, no companion has the Throwing skill needed to use grenades without them blowing up in their own faces most of the time. Not even the companions who are supposed to be good at it. On the plus side, enemies with burst weapons and explosives will gladly tear their own allies to shreds trying to hit you (one can sometimes even get characters with rocket launchers to use them at point blank range!)
In the more recent games, companions cannot jump over any obstacle. If you jump up or down a cliffside, they will take the long way around. Better hope there aren't enemies in their way as they do it, too, because they're liable to get themselves delayed - or killed - off-screen in a pointless fight.
Also in the Bethesda-era games, "stealth" is not in any companion's vocabulary. They will enter Sneak mode and sneak with you, but the second they spot an enemy they charge in guns blazing. The only way out is to have them wait for you in an out-of-the-way area and go it alone.
NPCs universally suffer from Suicidal Overconfidence and will eagerly run into combat with a dozen enemies, even if at a glance the player could tell they wouldn't survive to see their next turn for it.
Due to some glitchy programming with how enemies handle aggro, it's possible to accidentally hit a friendly NPC while trying to shoot an enemy, and as a result your companions will presume you see them as an enemy and attack them, or the hit NPC will turn their attention to fighting you. Fight in towns with allies and enemies scattered between innocent bystanders, a single stray bullet hitting a civilian because they ran between you and the enemy could result in you having to massacre the town in self-defense.
In Fallout 2, if your stats are high enough, some enemies will flee combat from you. Then when you end combat, they will slowly walk back to where they were at the start of combat, likely triggering combat again. No choice to break the loop but shoot them dead.
NPCs have no sense of moderation at all when it comes to combat, and will always use the most powerful weapon you gave them that has ammo. this is particularly annoying when giving your companions grenades or mines (so that you don't have to haul them around yourself) and they wind of throwing them at one-hit-point nuisances like radroaches.
Asshole Victim: The United States in the backstory. Bearing little resemblance to its real-world counterpart, Fallout-universe America is a dystopian, jingoistic, imperialist state that thinks nothing of rounding up political dissidents at gunpoint and sending them to concentration camps to be used as test subjects in perverted medical experiments. Even after the nukes fall, it's really hard to feel sorry for Fallout's America.
Attack Its Weak Point: Robots take more damage when hit in the head with a targeted attack—but then again, so does every other enemy in the series.
Authority Equals Asskicking: Seen in Fallout 1 with the Lieutenant and the Master. Averted in Fallout 2 with President Richardson, who's a standard unarmed civilian, and in Fallout 3 with Colonel Autumn, who is only slightly tougher than a normal enemy soldier. Played straight in Fallout 3 with Bonus Boss Commander Jabsco of Talon Company (who has a rocket launcher and more health than almost any other character in the game), and Chinese General Jingwei in the Operation: Anchorage DLC expansion (who has an insane amount of health which, combined with his body armor, makes him the 2nd toughest enemy in the entire game next to the 15-foot tall Super Mutant Behemoth, possibly to encourage the player to convince him to surrender instead, or maybe just an example of Executive Meddling on the part of General Chase). Both seen and averted in New Vegas. The NCR President and General are both bog-standard humans, while Caesar himself is only about as tough as an Elite Mook. Legate Lanius, however, is a murder machine (for reference, the guy can take multiple anti-tank rounds to the face and still have more than 3/4ths of his health left).
A good example of both instances occurs in the Old World Blues DLC for New Vegas. The Think Tank were experimenting with a procedure to remove a subject's brain and replace it with a Tesla coil, yet retain their personality and memories. Unfortunately a technical glitch in their Autodoc caused the procedure to destroy the minds of all the test subjects, until the Courier's unique bullet-scarred brain forces it to reboot back to its original settings, preventing them from becoming a Lobotomite.
Badass Bookworm: Virtually any character build in any of the games that relies heavily on intelligence. The intelligence attribute contributes to skill points granted per level. As a result, high level intelligent characters will almost certainly have mastered a wide variety of skills, including ones related to direct combat. In order to even get access to cybernetic combat implants, one must first have substantial skill as a medical doctor.
Ballistic Discount: You can kill pretty much anyone and take their stuff, shopkeeper or not, which includes killing them with a gun they just sold you and taking back your cash. Be aware that eyewitnesses (aside from your ludicrously loyal companions) will open fire.
BFG: The "Big Guns" skill determines how well you can use them. Without question, any given game in the Fallout series has many more BFGs than any other video RPG.
Big Brother Is Watching: Thanks to its endless Commie witch-hunt, pre-War America saw this as a good thing. Actual quote from the Museum of Technology Vault tour: "Concerned about security? Our I-On-U camera allows the Overseer to watch your every move. You'll never be alone again!" Yay?
Bittersweet Ending: Fallout ends with the player banished from the Vault forever despite saving most of West Coast humanity. Depending on the choices you made in Fallout 2, a lot of places can end up badly despite your best efforts (or more likely, because of them). In Fallout 3, Lyons' Heroic Sacrifice ending probably falls here, as it's your ally sacrificing herself to activate Project Purity to provide clean, fresh water to the Wasteland. It doesn't solve everything, but it's a start. Of course, you're a cowardly bastard for not doing it yourself. The Corrupt and Coward Endings are even worse. Finally, one of the third game's optional sidequests is a setup for a Shout-Out to the ending of the first (and it hurts just as much). Pretty much every ending for New Vegas has some negative consequence to it.
Bloody Hilarious: The main purpose of the Bloody Mess trait, which causes your enemies to die in the most horrific ways from even the lightest of death blows. At its best, your enemy may spontaneously be reduced to bloody chunks from being hit by a teddy bear. Fallout 3 made it helpful rather than merely amusing by tacking on a + 5% damage bonus. Even without Bloody Mess, you still get this effect from rare, good crits.
Blown Across the Room: Most guns simply poke holes in enemies until they fall down, but the Gauss Rifle from Operation Anchorage will send enemies flying on a critical hit. It's a good idea to knock the particularly tough enemies down to render them temporarily out of action. Plus, sending giant scorpions flying around ass over teakettle is hilarious. In the original two games, certain critical hits with most weapons will blow enemies (or you!) right off their feet and send them tumbling across the room, sometimes knocking them unconscious.
Body Horror: In general, any time you hear the words "biological experiment," "scientific accident," or "mutation," brace yourself for a sample of body horror. Note: The Master (boss of the first Fallout) had a nasty scientific accident involving a biological experiment and mutation, so...
Boring, but Practical: In all games, Small Guns is the combat skill that will get you through with the least fuss. A hunting rifle acquired fairly early on will serve you well for a very long time.
Bowdlerise: German, and sometimes European in general, versions of the games are edited to remove gore, violence towards children, and other such controversial content. Besides that, the first game provides option to censor all non-PG level swear words (and some PG level ones too, apparently just in case).
Brain in a Jar: Appears repeatedly throughout the series, most notably the "robobrain" enemy.
Canon Discontinuity: Despite having almost no inconsistencies with previous games, Brotherhood of Steel isn't considered canon by Bethesda, likely due to the negative fan opinion of the game. Fallout Tactics is considered Broad Strokes canon due to design inconsistencies with the rest of the series.
Canine Companion: A dog is a staple companion character in all the Fallout games. See the individual game entries for details. One of the premises of the series is about you traveling the whole wasteland with a dog, so this trope is one of the main plots in the whole Fallout saga.
Cartography Sidequest: In Fallout 3, you can map out the Wasteland for Reilly after you've saved her squad in exchange for caps. Two smaller ones also appear in Fallout 2. Vault City asks you to map the grid squares surrounding Gecko and to find a route to NCR. Technically, you just have to get to NCR. It doesn't matter if you go by way of New Reno and San Francisco.
Chainsaw Good: The 'Ripper' weapon is, quite literally, a chainsaw stuck on a one-handed sword hilt.
The Chosen Zero: When you have a character with low intelligence, pay a visit to your Vault or your native village and the locals will all express various levels of horror that your drooling moron of a character is the only thing standing between them and total destruction.
Cluster F-Bomb: Used quite a bit. In the first three games there is an option so that the offensive words are bleeped out and/or replaced with less offending words.
ALARM! Intruders in the camp! Wake up you piss ant sons of bitches! I'll swear I'll cut the balls of anyone I don't see fighting! Get up you curs! If they escape, God help me, I'll burn you motherfucking still to the ground!
Combat Pragmatist: Throughout the series, you'll shoot opponents in the legs to cripple them, shoot them in the eyes to blind them, and use combat drugs and cybernetic implants to give yourself an edge in battle. Even out of battle, major factions often have discreet and indirect ways to break their power without gunning them down directly.
Cool Shades: Appear often; depending on the game they may provide stat bonuses or just look good.
Corrupt Politician: Sadly, the majority of officials in every mid-sized to large community qualify. Slightly less common with elected rather than self-appointed or hereditary officials... but only slightly.
Cowboy Bebop at His Computer: A rather hilarious example, as some dubious journalists saw a Fallout 3 promo shot of a ruined Washington, D.C., without a watermark and assumed it was created by terrorists as a warning. Seriously.
Crapsack World: The world is a ruined, post-apocalyptic wasteland, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. It only gets worse, folks. There are giant radioactive insects and arachnids, really unsociable mutants, zombie-like creatures of every flavor and variety, mass starvation, dehydration, radiation sickness, lethal booby-traps and the occasional inexplicable Eldritch Abomination. Humanity has responded to these challenges with rampant slavery, xenophobia, cannibalism, and murder on a scale that can potentially reach genocide. The whole world seems to be designed remind the human race of how royally they screwed up the planet, and most of the human race still isn't getting the message. There are examples of civilization trying to rebuild itself, but this sometimes results in places like den of vice New Reno and fascist communities like Vault City. Still, the player can - should they so choose - leave the gameworld a little better than they found it. Or just make it massively worse, of course...
Crippling the Competition: Throughout the series, you can use target shots to aim at enemy body parts. Shooting the eyes or head lowers their accuracy, shooting the arms may prevent them from using certain weapons, and shooting the legs lowers movement speed.
Critical Existence Failure: Played straight in general: everything, whether animal, vegetable, or mineral, fights just as well at 1 HP as at 100. However, critical hits to a specific location (usually eyes or a limb) can cripple that part and reduce stats or fighting ability.
Critical Failure: A prominent feature in the first two games. You can drop your weapon, lose your ammo, lose your turn, injure yourself, and so on. At the extreme end, energy weapons can blow up in your hands. This can also apply to non-combat skills, jamming locks and triggering traps. Oh, and the Jinxed trait in the first two games made it happen to everyone around you, which could make the early game very very challenging since every miss had a good chance of being a critical miss. You could, however, make up for most of the negative effects of the trait by having a high Luck Stat, and you furthermore chose Unarmed, which does not have very harsh punishments for failures, as your primary combat skill, you suddenly have a very effective character build.
Critical Hit: Each game has its own Critical Hit mechanics. In general, critical hit rate is determined by the Luck stat, equipment, and perks.
In Fallout 1, Fallout 2, and Tactics, called shots to specific body parts (especially the eyes) had a higher chance of being critical hits. Critical hits were resolved by rolling on a table that included results like triple damage, bypassing armour, and instant death. Infamously, it was possible to roll an instant death result that did not ignore armour, generating the "[Target] was critically hit for 0 damage and died from the pain" message.
In Fallout 3 and New Vegas, a critical hit simply multiplied damage by a weapon-specific coefficient. In addition, a sneak attack critical did double the damage of a regular critical hit.
Critical Hit Class: While the series does not use a character class system, endgame perks exist that grant extremely high critical rates and most characters take on aspects of a Critical Hit Class.
The Better Criticals perk granted better results on the critical table in the classic games. In Fallout 3 and New Vegas, it causes critical hits to do 50% more damage.
The Sniper perk for ranged weapons in Fallout and Fallout 2. It made a separate roll for a critical (equivalent to your Luck * 10) after rolling for a successful hit depending on the character's Luck Stat. If Luck was maxed to 10, every single successful hit would automatically roll critical. Even more damage could be applied through the use of targeted shots.
The Slayer perk, only in Fallout and Fallout 2, was the Sniper perk equivalent for hand-to-hand characters. Instead of rolling for a critical, every hit was automatically upgraded to a critical.
All the main games allowed for a type of critical that would trigger if the target was struck while the player was undetected. Fallout 1, 2, and Tactics had the Silent Death perk, which would enable a critical when sneaking an from behind, and only while unarmed, while Fallout 3 and New Vegas had automatic critical hits on attacks made while sneaking undetected.
Cursed with Awesome: As is typical for post-apocalypse scenarios, a handful of 'mutants' turn out to have advantages that go along with their deformities.
The ghouls may make third degree burn victims look pretty, but they are immune to radiation and can't apparently die from old age. In fact, if they were able to breed they might be considered an improvement over humanity. Sadly, some ghouls seem prone to eventually degenerate into a 'feral' condition that reduces them to a (hostile) ape-like level of intelligence.
Super Mutants (the name stuck before their true origins were learned) were specifically designed to be superior to humans in coping with the harsh Wasteland: they're radiation-proof, staggeringly strong and shrug off bullets... but their gifts came at the cost of them being sterile and not very bright (with a few exceptions).
Damage Reduction: Damage Threshold and Damage Resistance, with slightly different formulas in each game.
Mad Scientist Dr. Stanislaus Braun from Fallout 3 has spent the past 200 years in a VR/life support pod overseeing the Tranquility Lane simulation, and is terminally dependent on it, as he tells the Lone Wanderer in the sim.
Mr. House from Fallout: New Vegas, who has managed to prolong his life by confining himself to a sophisticated life support chamber. Opening the chamber will ensure his eventual death due to being exposed to outside contaminants.
Caesar isn't technically on life support, but has a crippling brain tumor, hence Lanius being Dragon-in-Chief.
Death or Glory Attack: In the first two games, using miniguns against heavily-armored foes tends to serve as this. Either it bounces off harmlessly, or the wielder scores an armor-bypassing critical and tears their target to bloody chunks.
The first two games (and, to an extent, New Vegas) deconstruct the Idiot Hero. True, generating a hero with an Intelligence score of 3 or less makes you have hilarious conversations with the world; but you get fewer skill points from leveling-up, you are locked out of about 90% of the quests, and most of the NPCs don't give you anything for your efforts and treat you like a joke. Furthermore, an Idiot Hero can't really make a lasting impact on the Wasteland in general. Sure, you save your hometown, but everyone else is pretty much screwed.
The talking Deathclaws in Fallout 2: somehow they built a moral and social structure, though their creators certainly wouldn't have encouraged it.
The Columbia chapter of the Brotherhood of Steel deviated from their original mission (gathering old technology) to helping the inhabitants of the wasteland. This change lead to a significant number of BoS members claiming Lyons was a defector. So the Defectors from the Defector from Decadence became the Brotherhood Outcasts, who are a lot less altruistic, especially if they see you handling any piece of technology more sophisticated than a gun.
Designated Hero: invoked The player can make their character one. You can openly be a sadistic bastard who steals, lies, backstabs and murders their way through the wastelands, but by the end of the game your character will be a hero known across the Wastelands for their great deeds. Played straightest in Fallout and Fallout 2, where your character will become famed in later games regardless of their actions towards the other settlements. Played with in Fallout 3 where there were evil endings and characters reacted appropriately to you taking them. Averted in New Vegas where if you join House or NCR with negative karma, people and the endings will acknowledge you as an evil person that just happens to feel like working for the good guys, and if you join the Legion you are vilified along with them. The narrator will even dwell a bit on the contradiction of a character with good karma helping the Legion to archive their goal.
Dirty Communists: Going by Pre-War propaganda, the entire nation of China. Most modern-day humans no longer have any idea what 'communism' is, why it was bad, and what difference it really made in the long run. Military robots, however, remain rabid anti-communists: Liberty Prime figures anyone who gets the receiving end of one of his nuclear footballs is a communist, regardless of what he's actually fighting. Then again, that just makes it better.
Disaster Democracy: The Enclave, a descendent from the pre-war American government claims to be this, but they're really not much better than a tyrannical dictatorship trying to enforce their rule over the wasteland. The NCR is a better, more noble example, especially by the time of New Vegas. However, they're generally handicapped by the bureaucracy and red tape that plague most democracies while their overambitious expansionist polices leave them with a lot of enemies.
The Ditz: Harry, who is easily the dumbest Super Mutant in the entire series. Which is saying something.
Divergent Character Evolution: The Brotherhood of Steel "split" into three distinct factions after Fallout 2, each faction demonstrating very different behavior:
The West Coast side devolved into Knight Templar, becoming hostile to any outsiders they deem unfit to use advanced technology and using force to keep their bases safe, being very hesitant to accept aid from outsiders. They quietly acknowledge however that their xenophobic policies will get their faction exterminated since their numbers are dwindling and their technology is becoming outdated, but they keep to the codex anyway.
The East Coast Brotherhood led by Elder Lyons decided that their advanced technology would be put to better use helping people rather than just being hoarded, so they turned their attention to patrolling the wasteland trying to protect people from mutants and raiders, their ranks are open to outside recruits, and they offer aid to outsider projects they deem worth the manpower.
The Brotherhood Outcasts left the East Coast chapter because they felt Lyons' betrayed the Codex, and while they take the name "Outcasts" as a jab at him, they consider themselves the real Brotherhood of the East Coast and see Lyons as a traitor who will be brought to justice. They are willing, though reluctant, to accept aid from outsiders and will open their base to one they trust enough, but do not offer membership, bolstering their ranks with robots instead. They patrol the wastelands salvaging old technology, and their patrols deal with hostiles like mutants and raiders. Interestingly, the "outcasts" are closer to the Brotherhood's behavior in the original Fallout than either the East or West Coast sides.
Doomed Hometown: The first two games start out with the player having to stop their hometown's impending destruction.
Downer Ending: They're available if you really go out of your way to achieve them. Bear in mind that since even 'good' endings tend to be bittersweet, the "bad" endings can be hugely depressing.
The Dragon: Lieutenant to the Master in 1, Horrigan to Richardson in 2, and Colonel Autumn to Eden in 3. In Vegas, Caesar's right hand is Legate Lanius, while President Kimball's number two is General Lee Oliver. Benny was this to Mr. House (and you can take his place), and Yes Man is this to you, if you choose the Independent path.
Dragon Their Feet: In Fallout 2 and 3, you don't confront Enclave superweapon Frank Horrigan or Enclave military commander Colonel Autumn, who will "spare" you with a successful speech check until after you've already killed the Big Bad President and wiped out the Enclave's main base. Likewise, in Fallout, the final two missions are to kill the Big Bad and to destroy the Super Mutant vats (guarded by The Dragon), and you can tackle them in any order you want (Although canonically The Dragon and the vats were destroyed after the Master's death). Likewise, in Vegas, Legate Lanius and General Oliver lead the Caesar's Legion and NCR forces during the game's final battle, despite Caesar himself and President Kimball both likely having died earlier in the game.
Drive-In Theater: You find a few in 3 and New Vegas. In the latter, it's where you start off the Old World Blues DLC.
Drugs Are Bad: Performance-enhancing drugs (Mentats, Buff-Out, Psycho, Med-X, Jet, UltraJet) are all over the place in each game, but also can cause addictions each time they're used - and the withdrawal symptoms that result affect a player's statistics in a negative manner until cured (or unless you keep taking the drug). There are also characters like Cassidy in the second game who can die if they use drugs, and Super Stimpaks can be used as a covert method of assassination as the side effects will cause enough damage to kill President Dick Richardson (or any other 'friendly' NPC), allowing you to take their items without fear of the reprisals that direct action would cause. One particular NPC (Councillor Westin) will explode if you use one on him!.
Interestingly inverted in Fallout 3 and New Vegas, where addiction is a non-issue if drugs are taken in moderation (ie no more than once every 30 to 48 in-game hours) but alcohol always has a chance of addiction. Considering Bethesda has a habit of making alcohol the bad item inThe Elder Scrolls series while making in-universe illicit drugs useful, this isn't surprising. On the other hand, New Vegas features the Fiends, an entire gang of junkies who are undeniably the biggest scumbags of the game.
Dump Stat: Throughout the games, just about every stat except for Intelligence (and occasionally Luck) qualifies. Some have only very minor effects in game play and most, when needed to pass a stat check, can be boosted easily with drugs, alcohol, clothing effects, or the presence of companions. Intelligence is the lone consistent exception because it affects how much your skills gain when you level up, which is always crucial.
Eagleland The prewar United States depicted itself as Type 1 but in fact was heavily into Type 2. Fallout is one of the very few cases in Western media in which the USA is actually depicted as being outright villainous; the prewar government was an Orwellian nightmare that makes the real-world Soviet Union look positively warm and fuzzy in comparison, and their successors, the Enclave, are even worse.
Eldritch Abomination: Prolonged FEV exposure can mess you up in an impressive manner. The Master began as a human who got dipped in an FEV vat for an unusually long time, and emerged as a formless, tormented mass of flesh that expanded throughout the entire base, merging with its electronics and computer systems, and absorbing any other life form it found into itself, becoming a demented Hive Mind that viewed itself as a perfect being.
'Med-X', which provides damage reduction, was originally called 'morphine'.
Expansion Pack: Bethesda Software added a lot to the main questline of Fallout 3 with the downloadable add-ons, including one module that revisits a key battle in the background of the Fallout world (the Battle of Anchorage), another that allows players to visit a city mentioned in passing by another NPC, and one that promises to address the brevity of the main questline by allowing players to continue the game after the controversial ending.
Eye Scream: Eyes can be targeted in the first two games. Get your accuracy with any weapon class up to a high enough level, and shots to the eyes can and will solve most of your combat-related problems. Eyeballs are part of the burst of gore that follows a head-shot in Fallout 3, and if a critical hit to the head is scored they will fly out at high speed, sometimes hilariously towards the camera in VATS mode. Lampshaded by one character's combat taunts: "There's nothing wrong with you that a critical to the eyes won't cure."
Fantastic Drug: Jet, Mentats, Psycho, and Buffout, the series stand-bys.
Most can be justified at least marginally considering that the universe of Fallout is not based on some other world, but a divergence of our own world, so cultures would have tried to base themselves off of some kind of history in many cases. An inversion of sorts in some of the cultural inclusions as they end up based not on real world historical cultures, but fantasy sources, such as books or movies that were popular in or around the 1950's.
Robobrains. Those human brains used as central processors were not volunteers, they're enemy PO Ws, political prisoners, conscientious objectors, executed criminals (both sane & insane), and deserters whose brains were forcibly extracted while they were still alive, shoved into a robot body while perfectly conscious and aware, and left stuck in a never-ending nightmare, kept constantly awake and alert by the machines they're wired into and completely incapable of doing anything at all they aren't specifically programmed to do.
Fighter, Mage, Thief: Technically the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. system is classless. However, in the first two games there are three character templates that are implied to be optimal for completing the game: the "warrior", "thief" and "diplomat" templates. The three premade characters in both Fallout 1 and 2 always fit these templates.
Final Death: Once a team member is killed, they're dead forever. This is Earth, not Toril, and there are no such things as resurrection spells. In the first two games, every NPC (including essential quest providers) is killable. In Fallout 3 every character except children and those deemed essential are, meaning you can always progress in the game but can screw yourself out of a lot of potential loot and XP. In New Vegas, your allies are just KOed for a few seconds in normal mode. In Hardcore, though, it's Final Death.
Five-Token Band: Varies by game, but you're almost always going to have a colorful entourage. Humans, ghouls, Super Mutants, robots, dogs, robot dogs, and even a friendly neighborhood Deathclaw!
Flushing Edge Interactivity: Subverted, as the player can actually drink from a toilet — though the water, like all non-purified water in the game, is irradiated.
Gameplay and Story Segregation: Various issues specific to each game can be found on their pages. One that does recur, however, is that no matter how dangerous- or mutated-looking your henchmen are, NP Cs will never react with the immediate violence that one might expect from bringing, say, an eight-foot-tall creature in an all-concealing robe (Goris) - or a giant yellow-green mutant with a gatling laser (Fawkes) - into their secret base/peaceful village.
Gatling Good: Miniguns are generally pretty good weapons, though not particularly reliable against heavily armored opponents. They tend to veer between Ludicrous Gibs and just bouncing off.
Gay Option: In Fallout 2 there are same-sex Optional Sexual Encounters available for both sexes, though significantly more for women than men (in fact, there are more lesbian options than straight ones for women). Fallout 3 mostly avoids the issue altogether by not even including a straight option. Male and female player characters can hire Nova, the town prostitute in Megaton, and Bittercup, the town goth in Big Town, develops a crush on the player regardless of gender (though her crushes are mostly her turned into a Perky Goth and giving you whatever crap she found in the patrols). New Vegas adds 2 new perks, Confirmed Bachelor for men, and Cherchez La Femme for women, which will give special dialogue options when dealing with an NPC of the same sex, (and a 10% damage bonus against the same sex) much how the Black Widow and Lady Killer perks function when dealing with the opposite sex. If you have this perk, you can recruit one follower (which one depends on your gender, there's one for each) bypassing the usual skill check needed by flirting with them, essentially giving you a same sex romantic option. If you are a man with the perk, you can also get all your stuff repaired for free any time you want by flirting with an NPC and asking him to be "friends." Unrelated to the perk, but you can also hire same-sex prostitutes, male or female, in New Vegas if you should so choose.
In Fallout 1, rescuing Sinthia at the hotel in Junktown will get the player a 'reward'… whichever the main character's gender may be.
Generation Xerox: Everyone from the original Vault 13 Dweller's bloodline seems to have pure Badass embedding in their genes. First there is the Vault Dweller, who stops a plot to turn the population of the Wasteland into super mutants by destroying two underground lairs, saves quite a few communities along the way, and ends up as the chief of a newly formed tribe, before going adventuring again in old age, presumably dying somewhere out in the wastes. Then, 80 years later, his grandchild, the Chosen One, stops a plot to commit a holocaust on the Wasteland by blowing up an oil rig, again saving some developing communities along the way, and ends up becoming head of a new society (New Arroyo). And in one of the endings in Fallout 2, the Chosen One fathers a bastard-child with one of the Bishop women from the Bishop crime family, who, already at age 13, takes control over the family, and leads it to victory over New Reno's other crime families and, despite being a powerful Mafia boss in a crime ridden city at a time where the average lifespan is low, manages to live the age of 73, where he dies peacefully in his sleep. This ending was confirmed as canon in New Vegas, by Bruce Isaac, who fled town after stealing from the casino and sleeping with Mr. Bishop's daughter.
Likewise, the Cassidy clan are also hardasses with a tendency to associate with legendarily awesome people.
And of course because this is Fallout, the prewar governments love of genetic engineering, though great, doesn't hold a candle to the prewar love of nukes.
Genius Ditz: In every game you can set your character's Intelligence so low they're incapable of speaking properly and can't understand what others are saying either. Doesn't stop you from using skill points to let them pick locks, hack computers, and be master doctors. It'll just take longer since lower Intelligence means fewer skill points.
Giant Robot: Surprisingly uncommon. But there are a few.
Fallout Tactics features a few as enemies towards the end of the game. Best dispatched at long range with volleys of plasma/laser fire.
Global Currency: Bottle caps in the first game, endorsed by the Hub Trading Companies due to their rarity and the difficulty in counterfeiting them. New California Republic Dollars in the second, as the NCR is the dominant power in the region. Ring pulls in Tactics. Caps again in Fallout 3, though this time without a justification as to why. Caps again in New Vegas because the NCR lost the gold it backed its dollars with and the trading companies are honoring old promises. There is NCR paper money and Legion coin, but those are treated as barter items in most cases.
Good Is Not Nice: The Brotherhood of Steel in general, though it does have a few genuinely kind members.
Despite being one of the nicest major factions in the series, many of the New California Republic's actions in Fallout 2, such as hiring raiders to attack Vault City and having dealing with the crime families at Reno, are morally questionable. There are also certain political elements within the government who are attempting to turn the alliance into more of fascist police-organization. As one NPC puts it, "Their heart is in the right place, but their head is up their ass!"
Good Is Not Soft: A universal truth in the main four games. You can play an All-Loving Hero who upholds morality and protects the innocent, but there's a lot of nasty people out there looking to ruin your hard work, and they are not going to survive the attempt.
Grenade Tag: Planting explosives on someone via pick-pocketing.
Groin Attack: The first two games featured the groin as a legitimate target on any creature. Yes, you can punch rats in the groin. Even better, you can sledgehammer a rat in the groin. Which is still nowhere near as twisted as firing a rocket at a child's groin.
Hegemonic Empire: New California Republic have annexed regions by military force, but they prefer to expand through peaceful settlement and inviting existing frontier settlements to join them. By the time of Fallout: New Vegas, it is engaged in a three-way power struggle over control of New Vegas, a very advanced, prosperous, and independent settlement.
Harold, who has lived for almost four centuries, been in every game but Tactics, has wandered almost the entire United States Wasteland, was a fellow-adventurer with the Master before they were both mutated, and may eventually bring an ecosystem back to the Capital Wasteland.
In New Vegas all of the DLCs have a character who is this to some extent, and nearly all of them are (or at least presented as) antagonists at some point. In Dead Money and Lonesome Road Father Elijah and Ulysses respectively went on long incredible journeys involving post-war organizations, settlements, and tribes otherwise unmentioned in the series. In Honest Hearts there is Joshua Graham, who was formally both a Mormon missionary and the legate for Cesar's Legion. Dr. Mobius of Old World Blues was a prewar scientist and Brain in a Jar who eventually used SCIENCE! to prevent his former colleagues from ravaging the post apocalyptic world.
Hide Your Children: Completely averted in Fallout 1 and Fallout 2. Kids are a regular part of the civilian population, and you can freely blow them away in a variety of gruesome ways. The game even produces funny * wink* * wink* * nudge* * nudge* combat dialogue if you do so. Further, in one town, you are practically encouraged to do so, as the little bastards hang around in front of quest-critical stores and attempt to pickpocket you (and no matter how high your steal skill, it's nigh-impossible for you to take what they have back; you have to buy them from the merchant they report to). Note, however, that actually killing children will mark you as a "Child Killer," which causes pretty much everyone except the most evil characters to hate you on sight. This was taken literally in the European releases of both games, in which the children were simply made invisible (they're still there - they will steal from you and occasionally say things and can be killed with explosives). Fallout 3, though used the "children are present but invulnerable" variant (though you can at one point help a slaver kidnap one and sell another into slavery yourself).
Horror Hunger: Cannibalism is a mutation. Ordinary humans who eat human flesh too often sicken and die, but a subset have a natural hunger for human flesh and an ability to eat it without getting fatal rad poisoning (at least not as fast). Several organizations of cannibals exist who have either kicked the habit, tried to, or found a substitute.
Human Resources: In Fallout 1, your character could discover through simple investigation that the meat used by Iguana Bob, the local fast food vendor, was actually chopped up human cadavers. If the player has high enough stats they can blackmail Bob. By Fallout 2, his great-grandson has built an entire franchise...
Humanoid Abomination: Frank Horrigan, the genetically engineered synthetic cyborg homocidal maniac specially created by the Enclave, who is forever sealed in a suit of power armor that continually pumps him with life support. Dead Money, the Fallout: New Vegas DLC, has the Ghost people. The Cloud apparently changed normal human beings into feral, nocturnal, gas proof, limb-regenerating, and hard to kill abominations sealed in hazmat suits, with their only purpose now being to stab, throw spears, and chuck bombs.
Hyperactive Metabolism: Played straight, eating nets you a few HP. This can also be gained as a perk, it increases your vulnerability to poison and radiation, but increases the health you get back from food and medicine. Builds favoring the Survival skill over Medicine in New Vegas can actually heal gunshot wounds better by eating than by using stimpaks. There's even a drug ("Hydra") that can regrow broken limbs!
Fallout 2 has the Enclave Advanced Power Armor Mk2.
The third game has the downgraded T-45d Power Armor.
New Vegas has, to buck the trend, not Power Armor, but the NCR Veteran Ranger Combat Armor, aka the Black Armor.
All games except the second, however, have the min characters wear an armored jumpsuit as their most famous attire.
Identical Grandson: Fallout 2 has you play as the grandchild of the original game's protagonist, and since the game recycles the sprites for the main character, you look exactly alike. The uncanny resemblance is commented upon by Tandi, a character appearing in both games.
Idiot Savant: Your character can be mentally challenged to the point of being incapable of forming coherent speech, but can still learn to hack advanced computers and repair complex machinery. Lampshaded by Loxley in the original:
Loxley:Bloody fine job making it through the defenses, mate! I'm rather impressed. Toss me your name!
Loxley:Well, "Numa-numah-num-nuhhh", how did a total moron, such as yourself, get past my defenses? Sorry, no idiot savants allowed, we like good conversation here. Jasmine, show our drooling friend the door please.
I Love Nuclear Power: Both subverted and played straight. Most of the wildlife has been hideously mutated by the various mutagens, from bio-weapons to radiation. Take the Forced Evolutionary Virus for example. This mutagen which has itself been mutated by the radiation. This, of course, leads to mutated giant rats, centaurs, floaters, et cetera.
Ghouls, however were not mutated via FEV, but rater radiation and something else. With a higher tolerance to radiation poisoning and a nasty skin condition, as well as giving the player character a few perks, rather than premature baldness, brittle bones, sterility, or a slow death. On the other hand, an excess of radiation will ruin your stats until you deploy the RadAway. Oh, and make you grow an extraneous toe in Fallout 2. Certain perks also cause you to heal or regenerate broken limbs when irradiated.
There was also a bug (or possibly intended?) in Fallout 1 and 2 that allowed your attributes to "mutate" (numbers changed, not always for the better, sometimes far far better) if you took extreme doses of radiation (near deadly levels) and then got cured after living with it for a while. Though it did not seem to "work" if you got cured by doctors. Only by using lots and lots of Rad Away.
I'm a Humanitarian: The cannibal perk, along with some stuff in the first and second. Andale in the third. New Vegas even adds the option to harvest dead bodies for a snack later. On top of that, cannibalizing a corpse is the ONLY way to instantly regenerate health in Hardcore mode.
Implacable Man: The Khans are an implacable organization of raiders. Even if you storm their base and wipe them out down to a man (which has canonically happened twice now,) there will always be a survivor somewhere who will revive the band and continue their vendetta against the NCR.
Indestructible Edible : All the packaged foodstuffs you find are 80-210 years old, and perfectly edible, although irradiated, and the soda is "warm and flat". Perhaps justified, because irradiated food won't spoil (although the preservatives should have turned toxic by then).
Inescapable Ambush: Having a very good or very bad (karmically) character is a good way to have a price put on your head. A very good character is less likely to encounter an ambush that's inescapable, though, particularly with a high level of Outdoorsman. The ambushes in general start being (somewhat) escapable in Fallout 3.
Inexplicably Preserved Dungeon Meat: The series always has tons of pre-war food (even in the first game, the Great War happened almost 100 years ago) that's still perfectly edible, including the inexplicably popular Nuka-Cola. Fallout 3 and New Vegas work to subvert this somewhat, as eating pre-war food will still boost the player's health, but also inflict them with minor doses of radiation (and explicitly irradiated food that deals even more radiation when eaten can be found.)
Justified in that all pre-war food in the Fallout series appears to be preservative-laded, inorganic, sealed junk food like chips or instant noodles, which was also sterilized by radiation.
Infant Immortality: Averted in the first and second games, which let you kill children (though doing so is a great way to irreversibly wreck your reputation with the Childkiller title.)
Instant A.I., Just Add Water: At least one in each game... ZAX in Fallout, SKYNET (no, not that SKYNET) in Fallout 2, and President Eden (also of the ZAX series) in Fallout 3. Interestingly, ZAX and SKYNET are mostly benevolent (although it's suggested SKYNET is not to be entirely trusted), while Eden ends up as the game's Big Bad.
At the end of Fallout Tactics, after defeating a army of cold, merciless robots and exploding the front door of Vault 0 with a nuke, you came face to face with the Calculator, a super-powerful AI that's pretty much Instant AI, except you had to add... brains. Human brains, if possible, but rat brains worked as well. Some other robots are also powered like that, like the Robobrains, SKYNET and Protectrons.
Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence: Appears in most of the games. Fallout 1 and 2 were in the era of game interfaces where such fences were the norm. Fallout 3 made certain piles of concrete debris 'insurmountable' to force you to detour through tunnel zones, though equally high piles out in the open countryside could readily be scaled. Fallout: New Vegas has some particularly lazy examples of this; the overworld is cut into cells to ease loading times, and one can only transit between cells at passes. Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell this to the designers who made the visual landscapes, meaning the Courier is often unable to climb two-degree slopes at the edges of cells. In particularly buggy areas such as the area around Nelson, the Courier can end up several dozen feet off the ground by skimming a cell edge.
Invulnerable Civilians: In the first two games, all characters were killable by the PC, but were never subject to random deaths by other objects in the gameworld outside of battles that put NPCs in harm's way, such as the large Regulator shootout in the Boneyard in Fallout 1. Also, NPCs accidentally hitting (usually shooting) other NPCs in combat would often cause the injured party's AI to retaliate, along with other NPCs on the injured party's computer-defined "team." In a densely populated area such as the Den with many "teams" a few stray bullets or molotov cocktails can easily result in the townspeople all but wiping each other out with no input from the player. Amusing.
I Want My Jet Pack: Nuclear cars were a big thing in the 50's, and were thought to be replacing gas-powered ones. They obviously didn't work out. The retro-future of Fallout began to gradually phase out gas engines in favor of miniature reactors in the mid-2070s, because by that point the world's supply of gasoline was nearly exhausted. This is a major part of the backstory - the Resource Wars that eventually led to the whole nuclear apocalypse were fought over petroleum, and uranium once the world's petroleum was depleted. In the first two Fallout games nuclear-powered vehicles were extremely rare, with most vehicle wrecks you find being of conventional, non-explodey gasoline-powered cars. Nuclear-powered cars were presumably more common on the East Coast because either the factory producing them was closer or they were simply more widely distributed there, although the most likely explanation is simple Rule of Cool.
Jerkass: It probably has something to do with the fact that their civilization has been reduced to rubble and every day is a struggle for survival, but even setting aside the various raiders and slavers, there sure are a lot of assholes wandering around. Almost every single person you meet has some kind of chip on their shoulder.
Karma Meter: Each of the games has one (see their pages for details). It affects NPC reactions, and can cause hostiles opposed to your philosophy to ambush you.
Kill 'em All: In the original game, it's actually possible to personally murder every single living thing in post-apocalyptic Central California, including the usually-unkillable Overseer at the end of the game.
Killer Robot: Robots in general are fairly homicidal in this series, but special mention has to go to Cerberus, guard dog of the Ghoul city Underworld. He will extol the virtues of his Ghoul masters, then curse the "pansy zombie programming" which prevents him from slaughtering them. If you have the Robotics Expert perk, you can remove his combat inhibitor. Hilarity Ensues, since Cerberus by himself can slaughter the entire population unaided in some cases. Of course, he'll try to kill you given the chance, too, but he's not that strong compared to you.
Knight Templar: The Enclave, at least in Fallout 2. All mutants must die for the 'true' humanity to rise again. 'All mutants', at this point, is basically all of the surviving humans - after all, unless they've been kept isolated they may have recessive mutant genes!
The Brotherhood of Steel's dogma maintains that they're the guardians of the all the old world's advanced technology. They therefore hoard all the tech they have without sharing, and steal tech from their neighbors to "keep it (the technology) safe from abuse". They help you against The Enclave because the latter are a threat to their technological superiority.
The Mid-Western Brotherhood of Steel, based in Chicago, are a little better in that they interact peacefully with the tribals around them and help them. They are still a fascistic militant group and their 'interaction' is basically a glorified protection racket "for your own good", but they at least seem intent on including outsiders in building a better tomorrow.
Lampshade Hanging: There's a lot of this, whether it be by NPCs or by the main character him/herself, particularly the Chosen One from the second game, provided he/she isn't an idiot.
Legendary in the Sequel: From a naive man/woman in a stupid blue jumpsuit, the Vault Dweller's many achievements have made him/her a household name by Fallout 2.
Lethal Joke Item: The Red Ryder Limited Edition BB Gun. It does virtually no damage to enemies... unless you hit them in the eyes, in which case it becomes the most powerful weapon in the entire game and has a near 100% crit rate, regularly resulting in Ludicrous Gibs even against Super Mutants and Nightkin. It is, however, useless against enemies that don't have eyes. The same BB Gun makes it's return in New Vegas. The weapon has an extremely high critical damage multiplier and perfect accuracy, and while hidden, with the right perks, its damage output surpasses everything short of an Anti-materiel rifle with a sneak attack critical.
Living Legend: By the end of any given game, the protagonist will have been everywhere, met everyone, changed everything for better or worse, and become a legend. Or maybe you just skipped right to the end, because you can do that.
The Courier is unaware until Lonesome Road that they already were this to the people of the Divide, and not in a good way.
Living Relic: Despite the nuclear annihilation and the 200+ years that have passed since then, there are still several characters that serve as living remnants of pre-war America. There are a significant number of pre-War ghouls (most prominently Desmond Lockhart from Point Lookout, Raul Tejada from New Vegas, and Dean Domino from Dead Money), a handful of sentient computers (ZAX, SKYNET, Button Gwinnett (possibly), and President Eden), a few Brains In A Jar (Professor Calvert, the Think Tank), and a few pre-war individuals who were preserved in suspended animation (Mr. House, the Tranquility Lane inhabitants, and the prisoners aboard Mothership Zeta). Of them all, most have either adapted to the new world (in the case of the Ghouls), or are cripplingly insane (in the case of Calvert and the Think Tank), with only Mr. House and President Eden really holding onto the vision of pre-war America and trying to restore it in the Wasteland in their own way.
Look on My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair!: An underlying theme of the game. Especially prevalent in Fallout 3, where you see the ruins of Washington, DC. Several landmarks are crumbling shadows of what they once were. The White House is simply gone. And it's eerie and nearly empty despite a few survivors and a plethora of things (human or otherwise) that want to kill you.
Luck Stat: Puts the L in SPECIAL. Increases your chances at critical hits, positive Random Encounters and all sorts of other nice things. In New Vegas, one dialogue option for characters with high enough Luck lets you successfully guess a password off the top of your head. And it's not even "swordfish"... Getting it up to 8 or 9 will allow you to clean house at the Blackjack tables.
In Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, the Bloody Mess perk can actually make corpse looting tedious if you mow down a large number of targets in a small area; you'll likely take a while sifting through the mess. Which spatters of meat belonged to which enemy?!
The Man They Couldn't Hang: Allegedly Van Buren was going to have one as a companion NPC. He is referenced pretty often in New Vegas when dealing with Caesar's Legion and appears in the Honest Hearts DLC as The Atoner.
Mascot: Both in-world and out-of-world, the Vault Boy - the wavy-haired, perpetually smiling figure in the jumpsuit whose picture accompanies all Skills, Traits, and Perks. In-world, he was the mascot for Vault-Tec Industries. Out-of-world, he serves the same purpose for the series.
Medieval Stasis: From 1843 to 1960, there was a world of difference, from technology to culture to politics in the span of 127 years. From 1960 to 2077? Not so much. Still holds true for after the Great War, with over 200 years having passed and very little actual rebuilding being witnessed in places.
However, this applies primarily to fashions and society: Communism was still the great menace, women were still chained to the stove, and cars were still curvy and chromed. Bomb-shelter architecture, particle physics, and weaponized viruses (not to mention propaganda-as-mind-control) all made great strides under the Powers That Be of pre-war America.
Money Spider: Mostly averted in that only humanoid enemies drop money. Played straight with centaurs in Fallout 3 though.
More Dakka: Everyone loves Miniguns, and you should too. Speaking generally, the best guns in the games are either a minigun of some type or Energy Weapon of some kind. (See also Beam Spam.)
Mysterious Protector: the "Mysterious Stranger" perk in 2,3 and New Vegas, with the Miss Fortune Perk added in the last.
Mythology Gag: In Fallout, recruitable NPC Tycho mentions he's a Desert Ranger. The Desert Rangers were the protagonists of Wasteland, the game to which Fallout is a Spiritual Successor. The Big Bad of Fallout Tactics also seems to be a subtle Shout-Out to the Big Bad of Wasteland. Also, some Rangers holed up in the Capital Wasteland. As per Word of God, Tycho's outfit became the basis of the Desert Ranger Combat Armor, which in itself inspired the Iconic Outfit of the NCR Veteran Rangers.
A Nazi by Any Other Name: The Enclave, due to their autocratic and militaristic rule and their stated goal of wiping out all "mutants" to keep humanity "pure", are frequently compared to the Nazi party.
New Old West: Certain elements of the Capital Wasteland (mining and 'frontier' type towns, bounty hunters, travelling traders beset by robbers, a heroic (or villainous) drifter, etc.) hearken back to Westerns, but with places like Rivet City or the Vaults, those elements are mixed in with Sci-Fi. Essentially, wherever the post-apocalypse survivors can't scavenge old technology, the lack of oil or uranium leads to nineteenth-century technology being their ceiling - and everywhere is a frontier.
New Vegas is much more prominent in this. Revolvers and dusters and other parts of cowboy culture are given great focus, and several towns (like Goodsprings in the beginning of the game) heavily resemble the Old West.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In Fallout 2 a special random encounter sends you back in time to Vault 13 shortly before the beginning of the first game... where you do a nice job breaking their water chip. You cannot return to your own time without doing so.
Night of the Living Mooks: Subverted. Ghouls are actually the most peaceful "race" in the Fallout universe - implied to be because while they may be tough, they're really not good fighters - although you do very rarely have random encounters with Ghoul bandits and psychotics. They're also immortal unless they die by violence, which provides a strong incentive to avoid it.
Non-Indicative Name: The Science skill mostly just boils down to knowing how to use a computer: other science applications are few, far-between, and usually quest-specific.
Lone Wanderer: I had no choice. You didn't adhere to the scientific method.
Dr. Lesko: You're right.
Nonstandard Game Over: If you sell out your people to the first game's Big Bad, and if you attack anyone in the starting village in the second. In the third, you will get one for revealing the code to the purifier to The Dragon.
One-Hit Kill: In Fallout 1 and 2, if a targeted shot rolls an extremely high critical (101+ ), it will result in an instant-kill, even if the actual damage is not enough to fell the enemy. This can happen only on targeted attacks to the head, torso, or eyes.
Intelligence across the series, since higher Intelligence means more skill points per level, unique dialogue options with characters that unlocks hidden quest paths, and it increases the Science and Repair skills, also very useful for gameplay.
In the first two games, Agility. It increases Action Points to allow more actions each combat round, and increases all combat skills along with a handful of non-combat skills too. No longer the case in the Bethesda-era games, where Agility is tied to much fewer skills and VATS is optional for combat.
Only Known by Their Nickname: Played with for the player characters across the series. The first game never gave you a name or nickname, but games since have decided the player character of the first game is "The Vault Dweller". The second game, you're "The Chosen One", but no one outside your tribe refers to you this way and will be amused if you say that it's your title. Fallout 3, Three Dog dubs you "The Lone Wanderer" but no one else uses the term. New Vegas flips this, you're "The Courier" to everyone except Mr. New Vegas, who just refers to you as an anonymous civilian contractor or courier. Both Bethesda era games occasionally include the option for you to mention your name in dialogue, but for obvious reasons (ie, all NPCs are voiced) no one will ever refer to you by name.
Oppressive States of America: The pre-War United States of America was not pretty. The infrastructure of America had collapsed due to the resource shortages (food, fuel, and material) while unemployment was skyrocketing. The government responded by becoming a police state and by trying to scapegoat their problems on Communists, then brutally cracking down on anyone who spoke out against their regime. Arrests, "re-education," and in some cases outright murder followed as the government tried to keep the population in line. At the same time, the New Plague (suspected to be a bio-weapon unleashed by one of America's enemies) began to spread, leading to nationwide quarantines. Before long the government had given up trying to cure it and decided to use the paranoia created by its spread as a cover in order to break up assemblies and register people. Eventually, civil liberties became virtually non-existent. In one example the commanding Officer of the Hopeville missile base, Commander Devlin, had a protest group arrested and sent off for human experimentation, claiming it would give them "the white-hot rage of capitalist justice." These tactics made things worse, and by the end of 2077 the United States was on the verge of a massive civil uprising.
This was done because the éminence grise of the federal government (The Encalve) realized it was likely only a matter of time until total nuclear war occurred, and knowing that the common man would not survive it they believed that they alone were worthy of re-colonizing the planet. Originally their focus was to find another planet to live on, however they could not succeed in this goal and decided to re-colonize the planet they were already on.
The Order: The Brotherhood of Steel, deliberately modeled after medieval knightly orders.
Padded Sumo Gameplay: The first two games have this issue in the very late game, where opponents with power armor are almost incapable of doing even a single point of damage except in critical blows, so combat basically boils down to watching “0 Points Of Damage” bullets bounce off each other until “Critical Hit for 999 HP” obliterates somebody.
The Pennyfarthing Effect: 1 and 2 have this in spades. Most prominently, you won't get any description of a usable object in the environment or even any indication that it's usable without first switching to the "look" cursor.
Planimal: Spore plants, one of which becomes sentient through further experimentation.
Plasma Cannon: Plasma weapons are high-end energy weapons. In the first two games, the Glock 86 Plasma Pistol and Winchester P94 Plasma Rifle (stretching the definition of rifle, being held like a heavy weapon) filled the role. In Fallout 3, a completely new style of plasma weaponry was introduced, using an Raygun Gothic styling and visibly showing the plasma arcs in the firing chambers. This latter style was retconned/reconciled in Fallout New Vegas as being a more standard-issue-practical plasma weapon compared to the pre-Fallout 3 versions that never made it past prototyping before the Great War. In game terms, the Fallout 3-style weapons were lower-tier, and the (renamed) Fallout 1-style weapons were higher-tier. In New Vegas, you can even find the Super Prototype of the Fallout 3-style rifle, the Q-35 Matter Modulator.
Post Peak Oil: Before the Great War, peak oil was the cause of the Resource Wars that devastated both Europe and the Middle East. Gas prices reached up to $1450.99 per gallon for regular. The United States (and possibly China) were only saved by going to an all-nuclear society, while the rest of the world ended up collapsing. It was all made moot however, when everyone started to sling nukes at each other.
Powered Armor: Iconic to the series. Some variant of it is always the best armor in the game—whether Hardened Power Armor in 1 or Advanced Power Armor Mark II in 2—providing excellent protection from firearms and environmental hazards as well as a significant strength boost. Worn by both the Brotherhood of Steel and the Enclave.
In the third game, however, it loses a little of its luster as all forms of it - excluding the Infinity Plus One Armor - decrease Agility, which is the primary statistic for VATS. Other armor types nearly match the T-51b in protection, while being far lighter. The Operation Anchorage DLC fixed this unintentionally with the glitched Winterized T-51b, which is essentially indestructible in addition to having the highest damage reduction available: Broken Steel also added Enclave Hellfire armor, which doesn't have the Agility penalty.
Punched Across the Room: Requires a very good damage roll if fighting barehanded, but it is possible to hurl someone a fair distance (a couple hexes, depending on damage, in the first two games) if you do more than 10 points of damage in melee. The sledgehammer weapons greatly increase the distance traveled.
Punch Clock Villain: One recurring theme throughout the series regarding the major evil organizations; the leadership is ruthless, and the rank-and-file have their share of True Believer fanatics and sadists, but many of them are actually just regular joes who think they're doing the right thing, simply obey because they've never known of any other alternative, or are trying to make the best of a bad situation. Members of the Big Bad faction of one game often show up in later games as friendly supporting characters, having chosen less antagonistic lifestyles or better role models.
Ragnarok-Proofing: Averted in the first two games, which pretty much assume complete destruction of every identifiable landmark that hasn't been constantly maintained (one location, appropriately called Junktown, is apparently constructed entirely out of scrap wood, stone, and metal). Played strongly in the third, where (despite atomic onslaught and 200 years without maintenance) you can still generally get lights and running water wherever you go.
Random Encounters: Happens whenever you travel across the map screen in Fallout, Fallout 2, and Fallout Tactics. Not all random encounters are hostile though, some are even beneficial, and with a high Outdoorsman skill you can circumvent most of them.
Recycled IN SPACE!: The Enclave are essentially Nazis... in America. Caesar's Legion are Imperial Romans... in America.
The Remnant: Where to start? You've got the remnants of the Master's Army and the Enclave (the remnants of the éminence grise of the US government) in Fallout 2 and Fallout 3, as well as the game's ghoulified Chinese soldiers on U.S. soil, still holding their positions and waiting for word from a headquarters that was (presumably) vaporized long ago.
In New Vegas, you get the Enclave Remnants, making them the remnant of the remnant.
Retro Universe: Fallout America is an amalgam of all the decades of the Cold War, as well as the Sci-Fi Produced during those decades. The Forties give the setting its wartime propaganda, urging you to buy Victory Bonds. The Fifties give it their Pre-War fashions and car designs; Fifties Sci-Fi gives it nuclear cars and the styling of its robots. The Sixties give it the use of the word "hippies" (in Fallout 3) and anti-war graffiti (all over Hidden Valley in New Vegas). The Seventies give it the punk fashion of the raiders and the oil crisis. The Eighties give it computers that look like Commodore 64s. The post-war civilizations also show elements of the Great Depression and 19th century frontier times.
Revolvers Are Just Better: Appears frequently throughout the series, but especially so in the Bethesda era games where high end revolvers are the Infinity +1 Handguns, even outclassing most laser and plasma pistols while also generally having more plentiful ammo.
Robot Buddy : Skynet and K-9 in Fallout 2, RL-3 in Fallout 3, ED-E and Rex (technically, it's a cyborg dog, but still...) in New Vegas.
Romance Sidequest: One of the few Western RPG tropes not used in the series. In Fallout 2 you could get married, but it was a Shotgun Wedding with a one-night stand treated mostly as a joke, and you couldn't have any meaningful interactions with your spouse after the marriage anyway. An optional romance subplot was planned for New Vegas but it was ultimately scrapped.
Scavenged Punk: Much of the weapons, equipment, clothing, armor, and at least one entire city are made of Pre-War junk that's distinctly Atom Punk in style.
Scavenger World: It's a post-apocalyptic series, it goes without saying. That said, it's not like scavenging is the only thing people do, and there are several communities dedicated to rebuilding and creating things anew. In Fallout 2 and New Vegas, many parts of the wasteland have become quite civilized again.
Schizo Tech: People before the war had AI, antigravity, robots, computer-assisted driving, pocket computers, satellite-based weapons, and powered armor, but not color TV or mobile phones. Justified somewhat in that pre-War society is supposed to represent the Raygun Gothic image of the future popular in the 1950s, not necessarily the future of our world.
The post-war world - naturally - has even more of this going on. The average wastelander may live in a ramshackle wrought-iron and plywood shack, and work the fields, the brahmin pens, or hunt with a scavenged ancient rifle or revolver that's held together with duct-tape and faith. Tribals may be even more primitive, with loincloths and spears made from sticks with kitchen knives tacked on the end. The NCR is one of the more advanced and stable civilisations out there; some of the bigger and richer cities and towns will have functional electricity and running water, and they have the know-how to build and maintain some fairly advanced tech themselves, but overall nothing we would consider cutting-edge. The Brotherhood of Steel have access to energy weapons, power armour and robots, but they hoard it all and actively seek to confiscate most examples from wastelanders.
Set a Mook to Kill a Mook: Plenty of opportunities to do this in all the games since they keep track of the multiple factions.
Most of the special encounters are Shout-Out material.
Shown Their Work: Fallout 1 featured a detailed description of cell division, and how a mutagenic artificial virus interfered at the anaphase stage. In many ways, the result of this interference is the single most fantastic element of the story; everything else follows.
Myron's explanation for how Jet was discovered, although somewhat fantastical, is quite complex.
Skippable Boss: Thanks to Fallout's commitment to "multiple solutions," there are several. This includes the Lieutenant and the Master in the first game, General Jing-Wei and Colonel Augustus Autumn in the third, and Legate Lanius, Father Elijah, the Think Tank and Ulysses in New Vegas. Subverted now and then: Frank Horrigan in the second game will only let you get out over his dismembered corpse. Check the particular game pages for more details.
Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Amazingly, the series is slightly idealistic. Yes, the world has burned in nuclear fire and is host to all manner of unsavory characters and vicious animals who will kill you or worse. But civilization has endured, is rebuilding, and there is still goodness and virtue in the hearts of some. And if you play a good character, the good will eventually overcome the evil. There's a reason why tropes like Earn Your Happy Ending exist.
In New Vegas, there is neither a definitive Big Bad nor a definitive Definitely Final Dungeon, so instead you get Ulysses, who is a Foil to the main character, and the fact that he is willing to nuke all of civilization back to the stone age marks him as one of the main antagonists of the game. Even if you stop the launch, the nukes still go off.
Super Soldier: The original and current point of creating Super Mutants, Deathclaws, and Power Armor. This was the US's hat before the war.
Survivalist Stash: All over the place, with varying degrees of loot. Some have their locations hinted at by notes or dialogue, and some are just lying in the middle of nowhere. And, of course,you're likely to stockpile a few of your own once you start to exceed your encumbrance limit.
Take Your Time: Averted in the first game. Played straight in all subsequent games.
In 1, the Master can be talked into destroying himself if you convince him his plan will fail. The Dragon, the Lieutenant, can be avoided by self-destructing the base.
2, you can talk the Mad Scientist who is responsible for the Big Bad's scheme into sabotaging it. The Big Bad will happily converse you with, but conversation goes nowhere and he's not a fighter so he doesn't attack you unless you strike first. You also set their base to self-destruct, ensuring his death anyway. In a rare case for this series, the Final Bosscannot be talked down, and this is almost lampshaded by allowing you to ask "can't we talk this over?" and the villain laughing "we just did".
3, Autumn can be talked into walking away by convincing him he fights for a lost cause.
The add-ons: Operation Anchorage lets you convince the final boss to kill himself. The Pitt lets you talk one of the two villains (depending on quest options) into fleeing, the other must die. In the other three add-ons, the final villain must be killed.
New Vegas, you may face one of two final bosses, or both. Both can both be talked into standing down without a fight. The Big Bad of the Legion, Caesar, must be killed, but he's a Bonus Boss and his death is not demanded by the story.
The add-ons: Old World Blues lets you talk the villain into reforming, Dead Money lets you snare the villain in a Death Trap without fighting him, and Lonesome Road lets you talk down the final boss. Honest Hearts plays with this by having Joshua Graham subdue the villain, Salt-Upon Wounds, in a cutscene, and you can either talk down Joshua into letting him live, letting him fight for his life, or just let him kill him.
Techno Wreckage: Lots of high-tech sites: the abandoned vaults, the Glow, the Sierra Army Depot, and more.
Trailers Always Spoil: The box for the Fallout Trilogy has a screenshot of the final boss battle for Fallout 2.
Trouble from the Past: Half of the problems in the entire series are leftovers from the past, either in the form of radiation, old world machines, or other leftover messes.
Underground City: The Vaults were designed to function as these. Ghoul communities tend to be found in subterranean locations, such as Necropolis located in the ruins and sewers of Bakersfield, as well as Underworld in the Capital Wasteland.
Useless Useful Spell: There are a few traits and perks in the series that are theoretically awesome but useless in practice, such as the third game's 'Nuclear Anomaly' perk (funny, and occasionally handy, but it doesn't discriminate between friend and foe and cannot be turned off), the first and second game's 'Skilled' and 'Night Person' traits and 'Presence' perk, and a few others.
Fast Shot (-1 AP to shoot, no aimed shots) + One Handed (Bonus to hit with one-handed weapons, penalty with two-handed) is a fun combination for role-playing purposes and not using Gifted. Pretty viable in Fallout 2 with some Melee/Unarmed skill and gets better once you get a .44 Magnum.
Computer Whiz and Infiltrator in Fallout 3 and New Vegas. Respectively allows you to re-hack a computer if you locked it after failing to hack it and to pick a lock you've broken by trying to force it. Useless for two reasons : you can leave the computer and retry anytime as long as you didn't lock it and forcing the lock is an option.
Fallout: A big Cathedral in the middle of the ruins of Los Angeles inhabited by strange cultists and a shadowy atmosphere. Bellow, there is a dark Vault filled with Super Mutant Nightkin elite troopers, mad scientists, mutated aberrations, cultists and crazy FEV-induced psykers. The walls are full of a grotesque biological goo that looks strangely alive. At the end of your way, you have to pass a corridor where your nemesis starts blasting you with his immense psionic powers. At the end, you meet what can be accurately called the strangest being of the wastelands: insane, super-intelligent, grotesquely mutated. There's also an old military laboratory in the remote badlands west of Vault 13, guarded by strong mutant soldiers and robots. The base is brightly-lit, yet the atmosphere is dense and shadowy. In the depths of the base, big vats of bubbling green fluid contains, depending on the point of view, either the key to the evolution of the human race, or its eventual demise.
Fallout 2: The Enclave Oil Rig, the stronghold of the extremely well-equipped remnants of the éminence grise members of the United States Government, a massive fortress significantly larger than any other settlement or dungeon, populated by an army larger than all other armies combined, consisting of incredibly tough Powered Armor-wearing soldiers loaded with the best weapons in the game and lots of stimpaks. Indeed, unless you're an insanely tough, completely combat-oriented character, your only viable means of getting through is to disguise yourself by wearing one of their own armored suits and sneaking past everyone.
Fallout Tactics: Vault 0. For most of the first half of the game, you are just expanding the Brotherhood's influence, crushing rebellions, killing raiders, so on and so forth, but then you run into the Super Mutants, who were the reason the Midwestern Brotherhood was sent over the mountains in the first place. But even they're not the true enemy- they were merely mobilizing to fight an even more significant threat- robots, centered around Vault 0, and towards the end of the game you move further and further into Colorado and into the mountains, until you start seeing real snow (unusual in a setting without much weather) and finally end up getting into the heavily-guarded Vault 0... by blasting it open with a nuke. From that point on, all bets are off, and you can't go back to home base...
Video Game Cruelty Potential: You can be a sick, sick bastard if you so desire. Pimping your wife and then divorcing her, becoming a slaver, causing gang wars, murdering children... if you count post-end-of-game results, your actions can cause entire cities to fall apart.
A minor, but rather poignant, bit of cruelty is convincing Moira to give up on her Wasteland Survival Guide. Not only is this considered evil, but it gives you a perk called Dream Crusher and forever dampens her ordinarily cheery attitude. There are benefits, of course, but they really went out of their way to make you seem like a bastard for doing it.
In Broken Steel You can wipe the Brotherhood HQ right off the map, kill off any stragglers, and get a special Magnum if you do.
Mid- to endgame main quests in New Vegas requires you to screw over each main faction except the one you favor, and it's quite possible to have them think you're working for them up until the moment of betrayal. It's quite easy (and historically appropriate) to visit Caesar for a negotiation and stab him to death, and Mr House, well... given what a pitiful creature he's become, it's hard not to feel like a heel for ending his dream.
Villainous Legacy: Non-character example. The Big Bad of the first game, The Master, was using the Forced Evolutionary Virus to mutate humans. The villains of the second game excavated the ruins of his lair to retrieve the FEV for their own uses, and the villains of the third synthesized their own version for their plan as well.
Villain Protagonist: Just one of the many possible playthroughs for the player character in Fallout.
Was Once a Man: Every ghoul and super mutant you encounter was a human once.
We Can Rule Together: The Master, President Eden, and Caesar all make similar offers to the player character. The Master is actually good for it, while Eden's plan will get you killed, and Caesar doesn't exactly have the best track record of keeping his promises (especially if you're playing a female character, given Caesar's view on the place of women in society).
In Dead Money, the player can make this offer to the Big Bad, Father Elijah, but only if they have a negative relation with the NCR, whom Elijah wants to overthrow.
We Have Reserves: The New California Republic defeated the Brotherhood Of Steel because the Brotherhood, being an elitist order, had too few members to conscript for troops. For years, they fought the war under the assumption that their technological superiority gave them the advantage, until it became clear that they were doomed because they could not replace their troops fast enough.
Weird Science: The Fallout 'verse runs on 50-style B-movie SCIENCE!
Well-Intentioned Extremist: Most major villains tend to be these (or at least, they think that they are). The Vault 101 Overseer is one as well.
What Could Have Been: Originally, Fallout was going to be based on a licensed version of the paper RPG GURPS, from Steve Jackson Games, and would have published under the name Vault 13: A GURPS Post-Nuclear Adventure. But due to disagreements, including Steve Jackson disliking the appearance of Vault Boy on the character creation screen, and the execution of the insurgent from the intro, the deal was called off. Instead, Black Isle thought up the SPECIAL system, which has been used in every Fallout game ever since.
World of Badass: Absolutely! The player and their companions each game count as a One-Man Army unto themselves, racking up hundreds of kills on an average playthrough. In a world where your little village could get overrun at any time by super mutants, feral ghouls, slavers, raiders, mutated animals, or power-armor clad extremists, not to mention that just being able to feed yourself for the day and go to sleep on a bed are luxuries many do not have, and just being able to survive to old age is a test of strength and will of anyone in the wasteland.
A World Half Full: The series in general. Yes, its a post apocalyptic wasteland, but the remaining inhabitants are more or able to get through the day. Of course, playing a Good character makes it count even more.
Wretched Hive: New Reno, The Den, Paradise Falls, Evergreen Mills, The Pitt, Nipton before the Legion, anyway.
Paradise Falls is so bad that its the only town you can completely massacre (preferably with Lincoln's hat and Repeater for extra irony) with absolutely no repercussions.
Inversion - while searching Vault City's database for your vault in Fallout 2, your character will notice a Pip-Boy hole if his/her Perception is above or equal to 7. Shoving your Pip-Boy in will give you the location of nearly all the locations. (Normally, finding the vaults would be an ardous task with several middle men involved.)
Played straight early in Fallout 1, when you discover that Vault 15's water-purification chip is utterly inaccessible.
Zeerust: The surviving pre-apocalypse architecture and technology is highly reminiscent of '50s Pop Art: complete with muscle cars, vacuum tube computers, and tin-can robots. Background material establishes that America (and by extension, the world) never really moved beyond the 1950's in terms of values. There was no 60's revolution, no 80's technological shift, nothing like that at all. As a result, even though the world "ended" in 2077, culturally, it hadn't progressed a bit.