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Coursers are elite synth operatives designated to carry out specific surface missions for the Institute, such as tracking down escaped synths. They operate around the Commonwealth in 2287.


Coursers are Institute synths, designed for one purpose. They're hunters. Operations go wrong, a synth goes missing, and a Courser is dispatched. They're very good at what they do.Brian Virgil

The primary instrument of the Synth Retention Bureau is the courser, a third-generation synth assigned to operate on the surface. Coursers hunt down and reclaim synths that have escaped the Institute. They are highly self-sufficient, trained in combat, infiltration, and tracking. In a word, coursers are relentless.[1] The Institute has used such hunter synths since at least 2277, when one such unit, A3-21, was considered by Dr. Zimmer (then director of the SRB) to be the most advanced synth ever created for the time.

Sources vary as to how coursers are created. According to Justin Ayo, current director of the SRB, Coursers are drawn from the third generation synth population: the SRB constantly monitors the gen 3 synth pool for tenacity, fearlessness, and independence. When synths are identified with these traits, they are then trained in espionage, investigation, psychology, combat, and mechanical skills. Those who pass a final evaluation for this regimen become coursers, while those who fail have their memories wiped and return to their former duties.[2] On the other hand, a conversation between Max Loken and other scientists in the Robotics division suggests that Coursers are specially-manufactured synth units, or at least that general synths can be designed to be more suitable for courser work.[3] Regardless, successful courser candidates receive specialized hardware and software upgrades to suit their role. Their cranial synth implant is upgraded with a courser chip to relay them into and out of the Institute,[4][5] and they also receive other upgrades (such as improved musculature[6] and targeting software)[7] for combat purposes.

The SRB primarily uses coursers to retrieve and reset escaped synths. Once an escaped synth is found, a courser uses the synth's recall code to wipe its memories and render it inert. Once done, the synth is brought back to the Institute to have its neural pathways restored and regulated back to its original functions, wiping its memories of its time on the surface, although numerous cases involve irreparable damage and the disposal of many escaped synths.[8] However, coursers are also given other missions, such as eliminating enemy targets[9] or making contact with other field operatives.[10]

They are noted by the Railroad and the Institute to be exceptional even for synths, as they possess exceptional strength, combat prowess, awareness, and endurance. They are widely feared by the Railroad, as their first instinct when they see a courser is to cease all operations and remain low.[11]

Interactions with the player character[]

Interactions overview[]

FO76 ui icon quest
This character is involved in quests.

Synth Retention
Rogue Courser
Defend the Castle
The Battle of Bunker Hill
Variable Removal


Notable coursers[]



  • A courser may call in synth reinforcements during combat, which will appear in the form of three randomly armed first-generation synths. Killing a courser before initiating combat (e.g. sneak attacks) will still spawn these synths.
  • During the first visit to the Institute during Institutionalized, a random courser can be observed talking to a nameless third-generation synth about accessing a prohibited terminal, threatening her with a memory wipe. The courser will be convinced of the synth's explanation, however.
  • If the player character completes the mission at Libertalia for the Institute, random coursers in the Institute will comment on how X6-88 admires the player character's combat skills.
  • Coursers appear to possess an even more advanced AI than the newest generation synths. This can be observed during the final affinity dialogue with X6-88, in which he states that he had tremendous doubts about the player character's abilities. Through a miscellaneous dialogue with Justin Ayo, the player character is hinted that coursers are heavily brainwashed and altered when compared to the normal synths.
  • While female synths are encountered in the base game, all coursers encountered in the Commonwealth are male. The Far Harbor add-on introduces Chase, the first female courser.
  • The origins of coursers remain somewhat unclear due to contradicting information. According to Justin Ayo, coursers are normal Gen 3 synths who are superior to their peers who are inducted. However, a large number of other sources claim that coursers are built specifically for the purpose of synth retrieval. Even Justin Ayo makes reference to modifying the line when the player character speaks with him about defeating a courser.
  • As the Sole Survivor makes their way through Greenetech Genetics in the quest Hunter/Hunted they will see first hand how dangerous a courser is against well trained and heavily armed forces such as the Gunners.
  • There is a binary sequence printed on each courser's rear neck. The sequence reads "01110011 01111001 01101110 01110100 01101000" and means "synth" in ASCII encoding.
  • Conceptually, coursers are very similar to Terminators from the Terminator franchise. Both are self-aware with a humanoid appearance that are highly capable of infiltration and direct combat. Other similarities also include instances of both infiltrating human strongholds (such as Greenetech Genetics), and massacring scores of people.


Coursers appear in Fallout 4 and in Fallout: Wasteland Warfare.

Behind the scenes[]

The term "courser" was not used until the Institute was fleshed out in Fallout 4, although Harkness (A3-21) from Fallout 3 performed a role similar to a courser.



  1. Justin: "So, here you are. Justin Ayo, acting director of the Synth Retention Bureau. I'll be up front with you. We're going to be keeping a close eye on you for the near future. Despite your relation to Father, you're a bit of an unknown quantity. I'm sure you understand. There won't be any... issues, will there?"
    The Sole Survivor: "So basically, you're the secret police."
    Justin: "Secret police? If that's a pre-war reference, then I'm afraid it's lost on me. Our main instrument is the Courser, a third-generation synth assigned to operate on the surface. Coursers hunt down and reclaim synths that have escaped the Institute. They are highly self-sufficient, trained in combat, infiltration and tracking. In a word, our Coursers are relentless. But I gather you know all of this, since you've encountered one already. In fact, I'd very much like to know how you defeated it."
    (Justin Ayo's dialogue)
  2. The Sole Survivor: "You mentioned that Coursers undergo special training. Tell me more about it."
    Justin: "The SRB constantly monitors our gen-3 synth population, looking for specific traits. Those who show tenacity, fearlessness and independence undergo a rigorous training regimen. We teach them armed and unarmed combat, investigative techniques, psychology and mechanical skills. Those who pass a final evaluation become Coursers. The rest have their memories wiped and return to their former duties."
    (Justin Ayo's dialogue)
  3. Institute scientist: "Doctor Loken, we've received a work order from SRB."
    Max: "What do they need?"
    Institute scientist: "They're requesting replacement Coursers again. Quite a few, actually. I guess they lost a whole unit on the surface."
    Max: "Is this some sort of joke? This is the third time this month. Doctor Ayo can't keep using my synths so recklessly. I refuse to give him anymore."
    "Should I tell him that?"
    Max: "No, I'll handle it. I wouldn't wish dealing with that man on my worst enemy."
    (Institute Robotics dynamic conversations; Institute scientists' and Max Loken's dialogue)
  4. Fallout 4 loading screens: "Inside every synth Courser is a specialized chip that is instrumental in 'relaying' into the Institute. Obtaining that chip is the first step in infiltrating the shadowy organization."
  5. The Sole Survivor: "Why do I have to kill one?"
    Virgil: "Because you want to get into the Institute, remember? They're your ticket in. Every Courser has special hardware that gives them a direct connection to the Relay in the Institute. It's embedded in a chip in their heads. You need that chip. But to get it, you'll have to find a Courser. Now I don't know exactly where you can find one. They haven't sent any after me, and sitting here waiting doesn't seem like a good plan. You're going to have to hunt one down. I can tell you where to start, and give you some help finding one, but you'll have to do the dirty work."
    (Brian Virgil's dialogue)
  6. Max: "SRB's asking if we can prioritize the Courser musculature upgrades. I'm swamped right now. Can you accomodate them?"
    "Advanced Systems says the new linguistic software is ready for installation. Any chance you can take that on?"
    "Facilities has gently reminded us that the gen 1s are overdue for maintenance. I was hoping you could handle it. I'm overtasked as it is."
    Alan: "I'll see what I can do."
    "No promises, but I'll try to fit it in where I can."
    "It'll take a few days, but I should be able to get it done."
    Max: "Thanks."
    "Sounds good."
    "Alright, I'll let them know."
    (Institute Robotics dynamic conversations; Max Loken and Alan Binet's dialogue)
  7. Justin: "I'm seriously thinking of heading over to Robotics to knock some heads together."
    Alana: "What now?"
    Justin:"They're dragging their feet on the targeting package upgrades I asked for. Maybe I should take some Coursers with me. You know, send a message."
    Alana: "Please don't. There's enough friction as it is between us and pretty much all the other departments."
    Justin: "You going soft on me, Alana? My methods get results, and they will this time. You'll see."
    (Institute SRB dynamic conversations; Justin Ayo and Alana Secord's dialogue)
  8. The Sole Survivor: "I'd like to know more about the synth reclamation process."
    Justin: "Fine. Once a Courser has located a rogue synth, it uses that synth's recall code to wipe its memories and render it inert. We then begin the delicate process of restoring the neural pathways to their original configuration. In those cases where the procedure is successful, the synth returns to duty with no memory of its time on the surface. All too often, we're unable to repair the damage and are forced to dispose of the unit entirely."
    (Justin Ayo's dialogue)
  9. The Sole Survivor: "You know who I am. So tell me. What are you doing here?"
    X9-27: "Intelligence indicated this is a Railroad base. Perimeter breached and all hostiles eliminated."
    (X9-27's dialogue)
  10. X6-88 and Conrad Kellogg in Dangerous Minds
  11. The Sole Survivor: "Is the situation that bad?"
    Desdemona: "Whenever we spot a Courser, everyone hides. We hide deep. We hide long. Until we know we're safe. We've never stayed around to see how fast the Institute can find and kill us all. So we're treading new ground here."
    (Desdemona's dialogue)
Institute flag
Fo4 Institute Seal