Could They Do This at Level One?

Could They Do This at Level One? : A Min/Max-ing Story

This is an obnoxiously long an overly verbose fictional scenario where a party do something crazy to illustrate some of the weaknesses I think I see in this system. I put this up for people to read and maybe give their thoughts. But I want to make it clear that I am not owed anything, by Modiphius or anyone else. This is more of an exploration than a complaint. I love Modiphius products and I love the vast majority of the Fallout 2d20 core book, but I’ve noticed some stuff I will change in my home game.

…A brand new party of 6 characters meet at Power Noodles in Diamond City. After some chit-chat, they get to introductions. But first, a player interjects.

“Hey, is there a Mirelurk Queen around here? I’d really like to see one.”

“Sure,” the GM laughs. “There’s a Mirelurk Queen just north of here, but nobody’s crazy enough to go up that way,” they say, with no idea of what will come.

The PCs introduce themselves:

  • Supermutant: A Super Mutant with 8 AGI, 12 END, 8 LUCK, the Quick Hands Perk and Big Guns & Survival Tagged at Rank 3
  • Ghoul Face: A Ghoul with 10 CHA, the Cap Collector Perk and Barter & Speech Tagged at Rank 3
  • Repair Tech: A Vault Dweller with 10 INT, with Repair and Science Tagged at Rank 3
  • Gambler: A Survivor with 10 Luck and the Inspirational Perk
  • NurseBot: A Nurse Handy with 10 INT, the Healer Perk, a Diagnostic Mod, and Medicine Tagged at Rank 3
  • And a nondescript Brotherhood of Steel Initiate

The greetings finished, the GM begins to describe their first plot hook, but is interrupted by a player.

“Hey, can we go to the shops first? I’m not super happy with my starting equipment.”

The GM thinks and says, “Well, you are in Diamond City. There are tons of vendors. Okay.”

The Ghoul Face easily makes a CHA+Barter Diff 1 Test to get a 10% bonus to the party’s sales and invokes the Cap Collector Perk for an additional 10%. The players hand the GM a list of the starting equipment they would like to sell.

The GM looks at it quizzically, “This is a lot of your most important gear. The six of you are all selling 95 Caps worth of equipment each? And after the 1/4 sale price and your bonuses it comes to exactly 175 Caps?” The players affirm the case and the game continues.

“And can we make an Availability roll?” the players ask. The GM agrees, looking to grant the party one piece of cool gear.

The Gambler Rolls 10 CD for their 10 Luck and gets Rarity 5, making the GM go, “Whoa, I don’t think you can have anything Rarity 5, if you could even afford it.”

“How about this?” a player says, sliding a note to the GM:
18 18 x Common Materials
30 10 x Uncommon Materials
137 Flamer
30 30 x Flamer Fuel
215 Total * 90% Barter * 90% Cap Collector = 175 Caps

“Um, this is a weird list. And very specific,” the GM says. “Also, I don’t think I’m supposed to sell you Materials.”

“We just like Flamers,” one of the players says dismissively. “If you like, we can roll Availability for each item and pay someone in town to scrap Junk. If you want to take all the time to do that.” And the GM dismisses this, wanting to get on with the game. The party are granted their list and the story starts again… and is interrupted again.

“Hey, there are public Workbenches in Diamond City, right? I can just use them like the game?” Repair Tech asks, and the GM confirms that this is so. Repair Tech continues, “I’d like to take 4 hours to modify the Flamer with Napalm Fuel, a Long Barrel, a Huge Tank and a Vaporization Nozzle.”

“What!?” says the GM, having not spent much time with the crafting rules.

The Repair Tech goes on, “I have Repair at 3 and a Multi-Tool that lowers the Difficulty of Repair Tests by 1, so I think you’ll find that all 4 Mods are INT+Repair Tests at Difficulty 0, costing a total of exactly 18 Common and 10 Uncommon Materials.”

“Oh, I see,” the GM groans. “Fine. If you care so much about this plan, go ahead.”

Repair Tech decides to roll all 4 Crafting Tests, just to bring the party up to full Action Points (7, due to the Inspirational Perk.) The GM begins the initial plot hook again, and is again disrupted.

“Yeah, we’re going after that Mirelurk Queen. You said there was one and that we knew where it was. We go there.”

“Oh, FFS,” the GM mutters…

Approaching the Mirelurk Queen with stealth, the GM makes each member of the party roll a contested AGI+Sneak versus the Queen’s Mind+Other. The Queen rolls first, rolling 1 Success. Each member of the party matches the 1 Success with their Sneak Test, some using Luck Points to reroll Complications. The GM draws out a simple map, with the players at extreme range from the Mirelurk Queen.

The Queen goes first at Initiative 18. Unaware of the players, she calls 4 Mirelurk Hatchlings to her side, costing the GM 4 AP. The GM then spends 2 additional AP to give her another Major Action, choosing to Ready an attack on anyone she detects entering her Zone.

The Gambler, eager to live an interesting story, spends their Minor Action to move into Long Range of the Mirelurk Queen and their Major Action to move into Close Range. The Queen’s Ready Action takes effect and she rolls a Pincers Attack at TN 17, easily hitting the Gambler’s Defense of 1, plus 1 difficulty for the additional Action. She rolls 12CD, getting a reasonable 4 Effects and 5 other Damage. Having sold their armor, the Gambler is hit for all 9 Damage + 4 Vicious, leaving them with an Injury and 2 HP left.

NurseBot goes next. She uses her Minor and Major Actions to rush to the Gambler’s side. She spends 2 AP for an additional Major Action to First Aid the Gambler’s HP (3 Medicine + 1 Healer, bringing the Gambler to 6 HP), choosing to roll the Difficulty 0 Test (1 Injury - 1 Diagnostic Mod) and banking 2 AP to bring the party back up to their full 7.

Supermutant finally gets their turn. They use their Minor and Major Actions to move to the Zone with the Mirelurk Queen. Then they spend 2 AP to take an extra Major Action, in this case an Attack on the Mirelurk Queen’s Face with the modified Flamer. The Difficulty is 4 (2 Defense + 1 Choose Hit Location + 1 Extra Action), so Supermutant spends 3 AP to add 2d20 to the Attack Roll.

4d20 TN 15*3 (END 12 + Big Guns 3 Tagged) with 4 Luck Point rerolls will roll 4 Successes the majority of the time, and in this case, the Supermutant gets the 4 Successes and hits the Queen’s Face.

Vaporizing Max Capacity Long Napalmer Flamer (Big Guns, Dmg 5, Burst, Persistent, Spread, Vicious, Energy Damage, Fire Rate 6, Range C, Debilitating, Two-Handed, Wt 31, Cost 305)

Supermutant uses their last 2 AP to invoke Quick Hands and double the weapon’s Fire Rate to 12. They use the weapon’s entire doubled Fire Rate (spending 12 additional Flamer Fuel) to boost their Damage, bringing it to a total of 17 dice. They roll a perfectly reasonable 5 Effects and 8 additional Damage.

The main attack hits the Queen’s Face for 11 Damage (13 Damage + 5 Vicious - 7 Energy DR). The Queen takes an Injury to the face. She loses her normal Actions for the next Turn and all vision-related Tests are at Diff +2.

The ungodly Flamer’s Spread hurts her for another 10 Damage. (All of her Hit Locations have Energy DR 7 and none of the Spreads are Critical Hits, so it doesn’t matter where they hit.) The giant enemy is down to 29 HP (50 Max HP - 11 main attack - 10 Spread).
5 Spreads * [(13 Damage + 5 Vicious)/2 rounded down - 7 DR]
= 5 * (9-7)
= 10

Persistent Damage, set to burn for the next 5 Rounds, starts on the Queen’s body.

With 5 Effects, Supermutant can choose up to 5 Targets to hit with Burst, and so they choose all 4 Mirelurk Hatchlings, spending yet another 4 Flamer Fuel. All the Hatchlings die (13 Damage + 5 Vicious - 0 Energy DR vs. 5 HP).

The other players take Rally Actions, banking 3 AP.

The Mirelurk Queen begins the next Turn. Because of her Injury, she cannot take any normal actions, and the GM has only 1 AP to buy additional actions (they spent their initial 6 on the first Round, and got +1 AP from the Queen’s Aggressive Ability.) The GM takes no action. Her Turn over, the Queen takes 11 Persistent Damage (13 Damage + 5 Vicious - 7 Energy DR). She’s at 18 HP.

The rest is a forgone conclusion. Gambler and NurseBot take Rally Actions, banking another 2 AP (up to 5 total.) Supermutant takes an Aim Minor Action and then does an untargeted attack on the Queen, Difficulty 1. They spend 3 AP to add 2d20 to the attack and 2 AP to use Quick Hands again. The Queen takes another 21 damage and expires. This second shot uses up another 13 Flamer Fuel.

The GM exhales. “Okay. We did that. Back to Diamond City?”

The party agrees. “Yeah, now that were Level 2, we need to go back to the Vendors and Workbenches.”

“What?” the GM gulps.

“Yeah,” the Repair Tech says, “Now that I have the Gun Nut 1 Perk, I can make a Combat Shotgun that does an average 35 Damage each Attack to anything with a physical DR of 4 or less. Our nondescript Brotherhood Initiate has Shotgun Surgeon and now has Quick Hands.”

“C’mon, folks!” the Ghoul Face announces, “We’re level two; we got Deatclaws to one-shot!”


My conclusions, for me, and how I will run my game:

1 - I think this game plays beautifully with off the shelf, stock equipment. Modded gear, not so much.

2 - I will always try to keep the players’ minds on the story and away from numbers.

3 - I will not let my players buy Junk or Materials. I will not let them scrap their gear into Materials. 36 Junk = 12 Materials = Advanced Receiver. I will try to keep that conversion at a slow pace.

4 - I will never allow Availability rolls. I will trickle out equipment at a rate I can control.

5 - I will hide Workbenches behind enemies, traps, hazards, obstacles and puzzles.

6 - I don’t think Crafting Difficulty should be reduced by Repair Rating. Complexity should be Complexity.

7 - I think all of the Flamer Mods should have Perk prerequisites, as should some other Mods like the Calibrated Receiver or the Splitter Barrel.

8 - Granting starting characters with gear that lowers Difficulty in an unlimited way (Multi-Tool, Diagnostic Mod) is bonkers. These should have a limited number of uses, or be enormous quest items.

9 - As the GM, I should never spend all of my AP on the first Turn of combat.

10 - I will be giving certain epic boss monsters additional Actions, on top of those bought with AP.

11 - Quick Hands is broken. Instead of doubling Fire Rate, it should add +2 Fire Rate. (the first +1 because a Perk usually gets you +1 Dmg, then up to +2 because you still have to spend rare ammo.)

12 - Neither Piercing nor Vicious should apply to either Burst or Spread. That seems harsh at low Damages, but as more dice (and more Effects) are rolled, it gets very important.

13 - I don’t think a Face Injury on a Mirelurk Queen works like a Head Injury on a human, even by book rules. I just wrote that to illustrate the problem with Head Injuries. A sniper reliably doing 7 Damage to something’s head every Round should not keep that thing in perpetual Stun. Perhaps only the first Head Injury Stuns? Or perhaps there should be a roll between the Critical Hit and a potential Injury?

14 - As I think is implied in the rules, GMs should be careful of when they allow a Rally Action. Players should not get to turn their characters into AP farms.

15 - Almost totally unrelated, but a character with a Luck score of 10 might as well have all their Attributes at 10. Being able to roll anything in the game at minimum 10, 10 times per quest (more with a Trinket) is too much. Especially in a larger group, a player only makes a handful of decisive rolls per quest. I have capped Luck at 8, allowing Luck 9 and 10 Perks to be purchased at 8.

16 - I wrote way too much. Sorry about that. Anyway, thank you for reading.


A) PCs cannot take two movement actions a turn. So no minor action Move + major action Sprint.

B) The GM is largely at fault for not placing any other obstacles in the way. A Mirelurk Queen should be surrounded by lesser mirelurks, and should be hidden underwater, not living by itself in the middle of an open field. And there should be other enemies and hazards along the path.

C) Many GMs including myself divide the XP by the number of PCs. I think this is crucial, and will keep your PCs from leveling up after that one combat.

D) Between the crafting, shopping, and hunting, this probably took all day. Can the PCs afford to eat today? If the gambler has to forage for raw vegetables and dirty water, he’s looking at a D3 disease check. Can they afford treatment? Where are they staying? Can they afford rooms at the Dugout Inn now that they’ve sold everything for one flamer? Or will they camp outside and get ambushed? Get arrested for vagrancy for sleeping in the alleyway of Diamond City (Oh, and now that’s a D4 disease check!)

4 - I developed some settlement rules (Settlement Statistics - Google Docs), including a more in-depth and realistic method for gear availability. PCs who want to start in prosperous, secure settlements to access the best gear should face other challenges to balance the benefits: sky-high food and lodging costs, legal trouble, high crime, etc.

6 - I agree on this point. I think perhaps the intent, and what I will houserule, is that the difficulty is reduced by rank in the relevant perk, not skill.

15 - You as GM get to decide what deserves a Luck refresh. If 10 points is too much for a session, make them stretch it out for 2 or 3 sessions.


One few things that stick out to me.

  1. AFAIK characters can’t buy materials. There’s no price anywhere to do so. They can buy junk but a) there’s no guarantee they’ll get useful material out of it and b) you need the Scrapper Perk to get anything other than Common, which has a requirement of level 3.

  2. Characters can’t move twice in a round.

  3. Effects are only on the initial damage, they don’t apply to spread or burst or persistent.

  4. You need to spend ammo before making the attack roll. Had this roll gone another way the party would have found themselves out of ammo and in a world of hurt.


Thank you for your reply.

A) Good catch. Thank you. Only one Move Action per Turn, right there on p.25.

B, D) Yes. The GM is not doing a good job in this story. Like, at all. There are many things that could delay or complicate what the party is trying to do. But, ultimately, a GM should not have to fight and dodge certain aspects of the game system, their storytelling should be supported by the rules.

C) I’ve been doing milestone leveling since 1995 and I’m never going back.

4 - I checked out your settlement rules and I think they’re well thought out. I don’t think I’ll be using them for my specific game, but I could see them working.

15 - Not allowing the party to refresh Luck Points for 3 sessions in order to manage the 10 Luck character has consequences for any 4 Luck characters. Obviously, this balance is a matter of taste, but I like my 8 max Luck solution.

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Materials do have a cost (p. 208): 1, 3, and 5 caps each. They aren’t listed in a table though, so no rarity is specified. 1, 3, and 5 is probably reasonable for that as well, though.


Thanks for the feedback.

Selling Junk and Materials: p.208 lists Cost for Junk and Materials, but nowhere in the book does it say vendors sell either Junk or Materials, nor does it assign them Rarity. And I would caution GMs against it. Scrapping for Uncommon Materials requires Scrapper Rank 1 at level 3, which combined with Gun Nut 1, creates some very powerful stuff. Only Complexity 5 and above mods require Rare Materials, scrapped with Scrapper 2 at level 8. Certainly better than level 1, but still not to my liking.

Movement: Yup. One movement per Turn. p.25

Effects Stacking: I agree Effects like Breaking, Piercing and Vicious should not apply to Burst, Persistent or Spread, but I have seen the designers state on multiple forums, multiple times, that in the rules as written, they do.

Ammo: Yes, if this went any other way, they would need more ammo, and after this encounter they are defenseless. But, they also still had much more starting equipment they could’ve sold to buy a lot more ammo, depending on which starting packages they chose.

I believe in this forum it was stated that they do not stack in a conversation related to flamer damage.

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Funny you should mention that. That was my Flamer post, and it was this reply that lead me to write out this scenario:

This post on Reddit goes into more detail:

Weird. I find it’s just way, way easier to say effects apply to the attack you’re rolling the dice on i.e. they’re triggered by the dice not the damage. Since you’re not rolling the dice again for spread, burst or persistent you’re not triggering the effects again.

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My feelings exactly.

But spelled out in painful detail:

Long Scope Recoil Compensated Scattergun Agitated Laser Gun (Dmg 4, Piercing 1, Spread, Vicious, Rate 3, Range M, Accurate)

Combat Dice = 4 Damage + 3 Rate + 3 Quick Hands + 2 Laser Commander + 2 Commando = 14 Dice
Average Roll: 4 Effects + 6 other Damage

If Effects Stack vs energy 7 DR:
10 Damage + 4 Vicious - (7 DR - 4 Piercing)
= 11 Main Damage

4 Spreads * ((10 Damage + 4 Vicious)/2 Rounded Down - (7 DR - 4 Piercing)
= 4 * (7 - 3)
= 16 Spread Damage

27 HP loss to a Mirelurk Queen with an average hit.

Max Damage (very, very unlikely) is a colossal 224.

And my way:

Long Scope Recoil Compensated Scattergun Agitated Laser (Gun Dmg 4, Piercing 1, Spread, Vicious, Rate 3, Range M, Accurate)

Combat Dice = 4 Damage + 3 Rate + 2 Quick Hands + 2 Laser Commander + 2 Commando = 13 Dice
Average Roll: 4 Effects + 6 other Damage

No Stacking vs 7 DR:
10 Damage + 4 Vicious - (7 DR - 4 Piercing)
= 11 Main Damage

4 Spreads * (10 Damage /2 Rounded Down - 7 DR)
= 4 * (0) = 0

11 total Damage on an average hit. Still enough to cause an Injury, and a Party with 6 of these is intense, but at least it’s not absurd.

Max Damage goes down to 28, the Spread Damage never able to overcome the DR.

(There’s another scenario, where Piercing applies to Spread, but Vicious does not apply to Spread. I don’t like this because you can use Mods and Perks to get a Splitter Laser Gun to Piercing 3 or a Combat Shotgun to Piercing 2 and combine with Accurate and/or Mister Sandman for total Piercing+Spread chaos.)

I could see allowing it the other way around (Vicious applying to Spread, but not Piercing). In this scenario, you’d still have no damage getting through that level of DR. But, if someone managed to find a way to bump that damage to 2x the DR (or just got lucky), it could get really nasty very suddenly.

I could ALSO see allowing full Effect stacking for Spread, BUT just like half the rolled damage is applied as another hit for each Effect rolled… the number of Effects rolled is also halved (also rounded down) for the purpose of calculating the Effects on those Spread hits. In that scenario, your avg Spread damage would have been ((10 Damage + 2 Vicious)/2 - (7 DR - 2 Piercing)) = 4 * (6 - 5) = 4 Spread Damage.

You could combine both approaches, or apply other limits (like halving the Effects for every subsequent Spread hit, or requiring those rolled Effects to be divided among ALL of the Spread hits instead of being applied to each one). Whatever it takes to appeal to logic AND fairness to the RAI.

All that said, the way the rules are written for Spread, “half the rolled damage (rounded down)” seems to imply that ADDED damage from Effects rolled doesn’t apply to Spread hits, which explicitly says ROLLED damage. The wording for Piercing still leaves things open to interpretation, but it would seem that Vicious is right out.

Having run 22 four-hour sessions of this game, I am glad that I ruled that Damage Effects never stack. It makes combat much more predictable and easier to balance, and 2d20 combat is often very chaotic. “Damage Effects never stack. Ever.” is an easy rule everyone at my table understands without the need for cheat sheets or argument.

In the 4 months since I posted this, I have seen a few posts (mostly on Reddit) from other groups reporting that they were stacking all Damage Effects, with weapons like the Double Barrel Shotgun doing enormous amounts of damage, even at low level.

Ultimately it’s up to a GM to decide the style of play at the table. If the OMG moment of insane Flamer damage (or the badass-ery of modding out a world-ending combat shotgun at level 6) is more important to you than long-term character growth or damage equivalency within the party, then none of my suggestions are for you. You do you.

I just wish there was some kind of warning for new GMs that Damage Effects stacking, cheap mod costs and easy crafting Skill Tests will make combat way less predictable, will make every enemy in the book a joke, and will favour Small Guns, Energy Weapons and Big Guns builds far and away more than their Explosives, Melee, Unarmed and Throwing weapon-using team mates.

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Thank you for this insight, it’s extremely helpful for me.

What mods cost and skill craft lvl difficulty do you recommend?

Honestly, I really don’t know what an optimal crafting system would look like. My party are at level 6 and took no crafting Perks. My focus has been on other parts of the game.

The problem areas, as I see it, are:

  1. Skill Rating reduces crafting difficulty. This means a high Repair character with a Multi-Tool and a Lab Coat can reliably make the rolls for any weapon mod.

  2. Very few mods require rare materials, making the uncommon materials for powerful mods available at Level 3 (Scrapper Perk.)

  3. Small Guns and Energy Weapons Mods are far more plentiful and effective than the mods for other weapons. Throwing Weapons have literally none.

  4. The Armorer Perk allows very powerful mods at Rank 1.

  5. The Flamer’s mods are all available with no Perks. That’s nuts.

There are many possible solutions to these points, the easiest being to just increase the difficulty of enemies to match the better equipment. Slowing down the pace of modding probably requires a bit of everything: increasing the Difficulty, keeping Junk and Materials rare, making certain mod recipes rare, adding mods to the other weapons and increasing the Perk requirements on others.

I’m sorry I don’t have better advice.

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Realistically a mod for a flamer would be a lot easier than making a rifled barrel for a firearm.

Realistically, environmental radiation drops to safe levels within 5 years of a nuclear weapon detonation, and, like, doesn’t turn people into ghouls.

If you have one member of the party with a fully tricked-out Flamer (Dmg 5, Burst, Persistent, Spread, Vicious, Fire Rate 6, Debilitating) [which runs on Flamer Fuel that only costs 1 cap I might add], it will not console the player who put all their points in Throwing Weapons [and has a Javelin at Damage 4, Piercing 1] to tell them, “Isn’t it great how realistic this is? Now let’s fight a 12-foot bipedal lizard, so we can enjoy all this realism.”


Realism has no place at the gaming table. Consistency is the key, not realism.

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This read to me like a story from Knights of the Dinner Table. I want to be a part of the group who’d do something like this.

If your players are working together like that, you’ve done something right.

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Isn’t Knights of the Dinner Table a satire? Isn’t every game in that comic strip called “hack”-something to indicate they aren’t role-playing?

You don’t need a good rpg ruleset to min/max and come up with crazy power combos with no basis in RP. In fact, a broken rpg is better for that stuff. D&D (or Magic the Gathering) is always going to have more resources for that kind of play.

The whole reason I buy Modiphius products is that their games provide more opportunities for a deeper, more narrative and more cooperative experience. I’ve enjoyed A.Cthulhu, Dune, Conan and Star Trek Adventures. Fallout is also generally good, but some of these rough spots took some real effort to overcome to fit the style of play my table enjoys.

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Damage Effects never stack. Ever.

So what’s the point in having more than one on a weapon? When I roll damage for my Double-Barrel Shotgun, do I have to pick whether I’m applying Spread or Vicious? Can I apply half my Effects as one and half as the other, if I want?

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