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Big! Big! The size of three men! Claws as long as my forearm! Ripped apart! Ripped apart!Trent Barrister, Fallout

Deathclaw is a term referring to genetically-engineered creatures developed by the United States military to replace humans during close-combat search-and-destroy missions.[Non-canon 1] They escaped into the wild in the aftermath of the Great War, and over the next few decades colonized much of the former United States, becoming apex predators in many of the new, post-War ecosystems.

Background

Originally engineered before the Great War by the U.S. government as a cheap replacement for human troops during combat operations, deathclaws were derived from a mixed animal stock, primarily the popular Jackson's Chameleon. Although the project was successful in creating a ferocious predator capable of surviving on its own in the wild, no references exist of them ever being deployed on the battlefield. After the Great War, deathclaws escaped into the wild and quickly spread across the continent. The Enclave had no hand in the deathclaw's creation, so far as the Appalachian Enclave's research division knows, but they do note that the genetic manipulation looks similar to their own projects.[1] Eventually, they were refined by the Master through genetic manipulation and the Forced Evolutionary Virus.[Non-canon 1] Because initial reports were limited to a series of isolated nests, deathclaws were viewed as legendary creatures by the various inhabitants of southern California.[2] However, the population in the Boneyard was keenly aware of their existence, as a single den mother and her offspring claimed the area between Downey and Norwalk around 2161, keeping the Gun Runners in a checkmate while terrorizing other communities in the region.[3] Also, a single deathclaw was found living near the outskirts of the Hub.[4]

Their gradual spread throughout the wasteland raised awareness of their existence, until they entered common consciousness as a lethal predator. As stated above, the Enclave eventually continued their research project started before the war, developing intelligent deathclaws for use in hostile environments around 2235.[Non-canon 2] On May 17, 2242, the first successful pack was dropped into Vault 13 to cloak the presence of the Enclave and their abduction of the dwellers within. Following their first combat test, these deathclaws broke free of their Enclave masters, becoming far more intelligent than anyone could foresee.[Non-canon 3] They began developing a unique culture, as the first known non-humanoid sentient beings in history.[5] However, their intelligence was discovered by Dr. Schreber of Navarro, whose report led to the extermination of intelligent deathclaws with extreme prejudice.[6] Subsequent experimentation involved the aforementioned domestication units, although by the end of the 23rd century.[7]

Biology

A deathclaw

Deathclaws are a large, carnivorous,[8] bipedal reptile species, designed for maximum lethality. The choice to make them bipedal was natural, as bipedalism raises the head, providing a greater field of vision and thus improving the ability to detect targets or resources. The upper limbs were also freed by this choice and could be fashioned into extremely dangerous weapons. The caveat is that the deathclaw is not as fast as a quadrupedal animal, though this is a largely academic concern. However, deathclaws have been observed running on all fours when charging prey. The rippling musculature of the deathclaw provides it with superior strength, excellent speed, and incredible resilience in most combat situations.[9][Non-canon 1][10] Deathclaws communicate with each other in a pack using growls and body language, though they are also capable of mimicking human voices like a parrot if their intelligence is artificially increased.[10]

Their strength is further magnified by their claws. Owing to their lineage, the deathclaw has opposable thumbs, though an additional two fingers were coded into the genome, for a total of five fingers on each hand. Each terminates in a sharp talon that allows the reptile to wound and kill with frightening efficiency; a single swipe is capable of bisecting an unarmored human[11] in seconds.[12] Deathclaw hide is extremely tough, providing an excellent defense against blunt and edged weapons. Firearms and energy weapons are reliable tools for killing a deathclaw, though lower powered variants are likely to have trouble piercing its skin. The defense is enhanced by horns and dorsal spikes, making melee combat a very dangerous proposition.[10][13]

However, while they are difficult opponents, their keen senses can be used against them. Loud noises and bright light, such as that emitted by flares, can be used to deter a deathclaw's advance or even keep it at bay.[14]

Behavior

Deathclaws are pack animals, with the leadership role assumed by the alpha pair, the strongest male and female deathclaws in the group. The remainder of the pack follows the leaders and migrates along with them.

Coupled with their pack behavior is a fierce territorial instinct. Deathclaws will usually opt for territories away from inhabited areas (most likely due to noise), but may settle into temporarily abandoned human buildings and areas, as was the case with the Boneyard warehouses circa 2161 or Quarry Junction in 2281.[15] Once it claims a territory, a pack is exceedingly difficult to dislodge, as the alpha male will not abandon a claimed territory even if the pack mother is killed,[16] while the alpha female will simply choose another mate to procreate.[17] As such, reclaiming a deathclaw territory usually requires either killing both pack leaders, causing the pack to scatter,[18] or wiping out the entire pack. Neither is particularly easy.[19]

Reproduction

A pile of hardy deathclaw eggs.

Deathclaws are made even more dangerous by their reproductive instincts. Unlike Jackson's Chameleons, deathclaws are an oviparous species, female deathclaws will lay eggs in clusters, sired by the strongest male deathclaws in the pack, typically the alpha male. Survival of the pack is coded into deathclaws and the pack leaders will instinctively select only the strongest partners for procreation.[20] If killed, the pack mother will typically be replaced by another female in short order.[21]

While deathclaw eggs are durable and resilient, with a remarkably long shelf life,[22] deathclaws will seek out dark, sheltered areas to set up their nests.[23] Lone deathclaws will also claim territories and create nests, usually in sheltered, secluded areas. If they are female and have been impregnated by a male deathclaw, they will prepare a separate nest for their young, protecting their hardy eggs with whatever small objects are at hand, such as small rocks, fallen leaves, twigs, and bones leftover from their meals.[24]

A juvenile deathclaw is born without prominent horns or dorsal spikes, which grow as it matures, and both of which act as secondary sex characteristics. Horns grow forwards on males, with larger being the more desirable,[25] and grow back and upwards on females.[26] Dorsal spikes grow much the same way as horns on males and act much the same way with larger being more desirable,[25] but on females, dorsal spikes do not grow as large as they do on males and tend to be short in comparison.[26] Claws, on the other hand, are present from day one. Baby deathclaws are born with a light brown skin tone and live under the protection of their parents within the pack.[27] The skin darkens as the deathclaw matures, reaching deep brown upon entering adulthood,[28] and eventually dark brown, black or even black and blue for old, experienced claws.[29]

Relationship with humans

While deathclaws do not actively seek out human habitats to attack, human expansion inevitably leads to the two species coming into contact, usually by accident.[Non-canon 4][30] Deathclaws are incredibly dangerous to humans, no matter how well prepared they are. Even Brotherhood of Steel patrols are known to suffer severe casualties if they walk into a deathclaw's territory unaware.[31] The Enclave sought to exploit their fierce instincts and ferocity and use them as cheap, expendable troops for use in hostile environments. Their initial experiments, starting in 2235,[Non-canon 2] focused on using a modified FEV strain to artificially increase the intelligence of deathclaws and succeeded in creating a single pack of modified, intelligent deathclaws led by Gruthar. Intended to only be smart enough to follow orders issued by their handlers, they have developed far higher intelligence than the project assumed was possible. After the first unit was fielded, Doctor Schreber's experimentation revealed that fact and the whole breed was summarily exterminated at the site they were first unleashed: Vault 13.[32] Subsequent efforts, once the Enclave regrouped at Raven Rock, were focused on cruder, but more reliable methods: domestication units. These devices are surgically implanted into a captive deathclaw's brain and skull, allowing Enclave troops to issue commands to the fierce reptiles as if they were pets.[7] Of course, even without human interference, deathclaws are a continuing hazard in the wastelands. Despite the efforts of hunter teams, they continue to set up nests throughout the wastelands.[33]

The ferocity of deathclaws and their incredible resilience has earned them the respect and fear of wastelanders. Initially, the existence of deathclaws was treated with skepticism in the first century after the war,[34] and many considered them a tall tale, on the order of ghosts and demons.[35] However, the steady increase in deathclaw populations eventually secured them a place in the common consciousness. When used for comparisons, deathclaws are usually synonymous with ferocity and resilience.[36] Occasionally, they're used to insult people; allegedly, they're as bad as marketing directors.[37] Other examples of deathclaw presence in popular culture is the expression "deathclaw in a mating season",[38] and, allegedly, deathclaw costumes.[39]

Deathclaw eggs are also a known delicacy, used to make omelettes that are highly nourishing and delicious.[22]

Variants

Baby deathclaw

Babydeathclaw.png

Young deathclaw

Babydeathclaw.png

Deathclaw

Deathclaw fo1.gif

Deathclaw alpha male

DeatclawAlphaFNV.png
Gameplay article: Fallout: New Vegas

Mother deathclaw

Deathclawmother.png

Legendary deathclaw

FNV DeathclawAlpha.png
Gameplay article: Fallout: New Vegas

Deathclaw subtypes

Blind deathclaw

Deathclaw.png
Gameplay article: Fallout: New Vegas

Intelligent deathclaw

Gameplay article: Fallout 2

Albino deathclaw

FO4 Albino Deathclaw Walk.jpg
Gameplay article: Fallout 4

Enclave deathclaw

Enclave deathclaw.png
Gameplay articles: Fallout 3, Fallout 4, Fallout Shelter

Hairy deathclaw

FOT deathclaw.jpg
Gameplay article: Fallout Tactics

Experimental deathclaw

ExperimentalDeathclaw2.png

Chameleon deathclaw

ExperimentalChameleonDeathclaw.png


Notes

According to Joseph it appears that the Jackson's Chameleon was used as the basis.[10]

Behind the scenes

Behind the scenes

Was it always a big scaly lizard thing? Nope. My initial design for this terrible creature was a the apex predator of the wasteland, a mix of wolverine and brown bear, mutated by the FEV. It could survive any environment and feared nothing; a legendary force of nature that struck terror into the hearts of men! Unfortunately, the artists took one look at my concept sketch and said, 'Dude, that's way too much hair.' It was true. The Wolverine-bear was very furry, and there was just no way around it. So here's what happened: the newly formed Black Isle started work on what would be Planescape: Torment. One of the first art pieces was a monstrous creature called a Tarrasque. It was sculpted in clay and was then point-by-painstaking-point digitized into a 3D model. As Planescape moved forward, it turned out that the Tarrasque wouldn't actually be featured in its design, leaving that tasty model in disuse. Thus, the furry wolverine-bear became a hairless reptilian biped. (Take a look at page 339 of the D&D second edition Monster Manual. Holy cats! It's a Deathclaw!)Scott Campbell, Origins of Fallout No Mutants Allowed
  • The deathclaw name is derived from Shadowclaws in Wasteland.
  • In Scott Campbell's original concept art, deathclaws were mammals covered with fur and were meant to be a mix of wolverine and brown bear, created by FEV.[Non-canon 5] The reason it lost the hair from concept to production was a technical limitation of the rendering software, which couldn't get all the hair to move properly. The hairy deathclaw in Fallout Tactics was inspired by the original concept.[Non-canon 5][Non-canon 6]
  • According to the Fallout Bible[Non-canon 7] and Scott Campbell,[Non-canon 5] deathclaws were modeled visually on the Tarrasque of Dungeons & Dragons after a D&D computer game made by Interplay was canceled (according to Fallout Bible) or after the creature was cut from Planescape: Torment (according to Scott Campbell), as a Tarrasque clay model was already made and this way the work would not go to waste. However, according to Chris Taylor, while they do look Tarrasque-like, it was not intentional and the clay model was supposed to be a deathclaw from the start.[Non-canon 6]
I met my first Deathclaw in middle school, playing Fallout on a friend's machine, and I fell instantly in love with these "Dragons of the Waste." It was an honor to tackle them for Fallout 3 - sourcing from both the originals and the concept art of Adam Adamowicz - but I'm proudest of my Fallout 4 redesign.

To improve upon their F3 counterparts, I gave the newer ones thicker, more armored skin; shorter, strong-looking claws and hands; a bull-like redesign to the horns (to suggest the ability to ram); and a thicker tail - heavy enough to act as a counter-weight when it ran. It's important to note, too, that the Deathclaw is not a mutant, but a hybrid bioweapon created by the US military. To that end, I incorporated chameleons, alligators, bulls, panthers, serpents, & lizards into their design.

I love him.
Jonah Lobe

Gallery

Fallout 76

Fallout 4

Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas

Fallout and Fallout 2

Fallout Tactics

Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel

Fallout d20

External links

References

  1. Enclave research facility terminal entires; Cell block C console, Subject C-01
  2. The Vault Dweller:"{347}{}{Do you know anything about the Deathclaw?}"
    John Maxson:"{262}{Gen_78}{Oh. Just another stupid rumor. Some people say it's a huge fanged monster and others say it's a vampire.}"
    (John Maxson's dialogue)
  3. Gabriel
  4. Find the missing caravans
  5. The Chosen One: "{123}{}{What are you doing here?}"
    Goris: {135}{}{I'm a student of sorts. I'm trying to learn as much as I can about the world and the different cultures that have developed. Right now I'm studying the culture the deathclaws are forming and comparing it to human development along similar lines. I've acquired just about all the information I need here. It would help my research a great deal if I could do some traveling. However, I don't want to go it alone, if you know what I mean.}"
    (Goris' dialogue)
  6. The deathclaw massacre within Fallout 2.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Raven Rock terminal entries; delivery terminal, Note Regarding Recent Delivery
  8. In the quest Stop brahmin raids, Roger Westin mentions raids for food – the principal target being the NCR's brahmin herds.
  9. Gruthar: "{100}{}{You see a large deathclaw. The creature is composed of rippling muscle, sharp teeth, and claws.}"
    (Gruthar's dialogue)
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 The Chosen One: "{131}{}{What can you tell me about the deathclaws?}"
    Joseph: "{146}{}{Well, let's see... Deathclaws appear to be mutated Jackson's Chameleons, the horned variety. There are a lot of similarities still present, but an even greater number of differences. The mutation factor is quite high. This species is highly intelligent, about the equivalent of an eight-year-old, with some individuals reaching human normal level. Their learning capacity is very high and they are capable of abstract thought and reasoning.}"
    "{160}{}{Although they do not have vocal chords, the deathclaws seem to mimic human speech much the same as a parrot does. I have yet to discover the exact mechanism behind this, so I am unable to say more at this time. Socially, they are pack animals with a very rigid code of ethics. They are led by an 'alpha male' who rules with the mutual consent of the pack. They appear to be extremely loyal to the pack as a whole, treating it as a family unit rather than having individual families as humans do.}"
    "{161}{}{Their sense of right and wrong is very well defined. They do follow a code of ethics that is enforced by the pack as a whole. Violence is never used as a solution to a problem among the pack as far as I can see. There have been no 'capital crimes' committed here, so I can't say how those are handled. Hmmm. That's about all I can think of for now. I hope this helps you.}"
    (Joseph's dialogue)
  11. The Vault Dweller: "{141}{}{Where can I find the Gun Runners located?}"
    Razor: "{158}{}{The Gun Runners are over to the east and then north of here. But be careful - Death Claws are not to be taken lightly. I've seen a Death Claw tear a man in half with one swipe.}"
    (Razor's dialogue)
  12. Fallout 4 loading screens: "No creature represents the danger of the Wasteland as much as the Deathclaw, which uses razor-sharp claws to rip apart its prey... in seconds."
  13. Deathclaw appearance across the Fallout series.
  14. NCR Radio distress beacon and Flash bang information
  15. The Courier: "Have you had problems with Deathclaws before?"
    Chomps Lewis: "We'd see them occasionally, but they didn't seem too keen on getting too close to the quarry. Not sure if it was the noise or all the workers. I can't believe that an entire pack moved into the quarry. I thought that kind of bad luck only happened in New Vegas."
    (Chomps Lewis' dialogue)
  16. The Courier: "I killed the Mother Deathclaw."
    Chomps Lewis: "You... you did? That's pretty amazing - I figured you'd need artillery to take her out. I hate to say it, but as long as the Alpha Male is still alive, that pack isn't going anywhere, even with the Deathclaw Mother out of the picture."
    (Chomps Lewis' dialogue)
  17. The Courier: "I killed the Deathclaw Alpha Male."
    Chomps Lewis: "You... you did? That's pretty amazing - I figured you'd need artillery to take him out. I hate to say it, but as long as the Deathclaw Mother is still alive, that pack isn't going anywhere. She'll take another mate and keep laying eggs."
    (Chomps Lewis' dialogue)
  18. The Courier: "I could take care of your Deathclaw problem."
    Chomps Lewis: "Have you even seen a Deathclaw? They're taller than a man and far, far stronger and faster. And, there's a whole pack of them out there. You'd have to be the meanest, toughest, roughest bastard in the wasteland to have any chance against them, and I don't think that's you. You'd need to take out the pack leaders - the Mother Deathclaw and the Deathclaw Alpha Male. Kill 'em, and the pack will scatter. Pretty tough job."
    (Chomps Lewis' dialogue)
  19. Exterminate the deathclaws
  20. The Chosen One: "{111}{}{Who is the deathclaw father?}"
    Kerith: "{123}{}{These eggs were sired by Gruthar, the pack leader. It is Gruthar who decides who will mate and who will not. The pack will be made strong by Gruthar.}"
    (Kerith's dialogue)
  21. The Chosen One: "{119}{}{There are other mothers?}"
    Kerith: "{120}{}{Yes, there are more mothers. Should anything happen to me, one will be chosen to take my place. The pack must survive.}"
    (Kerith's dialogue)
  22. 22.0 22.1 The Courier: "Where can I find a Deathclaw egg?"
    Jas Wilkins: "The quarry just north of here is full of Deathclaws, so there's bound to be an egg or two in there somewhere. Of course, a Deathclaw egg from anywhere will do. According to my Aunt Rose, those things have a ridiculously long shelf life."
    (Jas Wilkins' dialogue)
  23. Fallout, Fallout 2, Fallout 3, Broken Steel and Fallout: New Vegas show nests in these areas.
  24. Example nest of a mature deathclaw.
  25. 25.0 25.1 Deathclaw alpha male
  26. 26.0 26.1 Deathclaw mother in Fallout: New Vegas
  27. Baby deathclaw appearance and behavior.
  28. Adult deathclaw appearance.
  29. Appearance of alpha males and females.
  30. The Vault Dweller: "{103}{}{Why don't you get many visitors?}"
    Gabriel: "{105}{}{This place isn't very accessible with a nest of those damn Deathclaws right outside our factory.}"
    (Gabriel's dialogue)
  31. The Lone Wanderer: "Dying? How awful! What happened to you?"
    Branchtender Linden: "I was a Brotherhood of Steel Outcast. We had a deep patrol out here, looking for some tech and then got jumped by some Deathclaws. They shredded everyone else and left me bleeding to death. If it wasn't for Oasis and Bloomseer Poplar, I'd be dead right now. Honestly, I've never seen anything like this place... it's beautiful. It's a shame only a few people will ever get to see it."
    (Branchtender Linden's dialogue)
  32. The Chosen One: "{119}{}{Why is there a deathclaw in the other room?}"
    Schreber: "{143}{}{The Enclave has been looking for cheap, expendable soldiers. We are interested in deathclaws because they have built in armor and weapons, and they're mean as hell. They just need to be smarter so they can understand commands but not too smart or they could develop a will of their own. With me so far?}"
    The Chosen One: "{145}{}{Yes, I follow you.}"
    Schreber: "{146}{}{Well we succeeded! We actually managed to increase their intelligence. However, I began to suspect that we went too far. That maybe they were a lot smarter than they were letting on. So when I was transferred here I brought one of them with me so I could put my theory to the test.}"
    The Chosen One: "{147}{}{And?}"
    Schreber: "{148}{}{I was right! The deathclaws have apparently been playing dumb, biding their time, and trying to learn as much as they can from us. They can even mimic human speech! I've actually had a conversation with that fellow in the next room.}"
    Schreber: "{149}{}{Anyway. The fact that they were capable of conceiving this plan and pulling off the deception shows just how dangerous they are.}"
    The Chosen One: "{151}{}{So what do you plan to do now?}"
    Schreber: "{152}{}{I'm going to write a report on my findings and have it transmitted to the Enclave. Of course I'll have to recommend the extermination of the deathclaw breed. They are much too dangerous a threat.}"
    (Schreber's dialogue)
  33. Fallout: New Vegas loading screen hints: "Despite the best efforts of well-equipped hunters, Deathclaws continue to establish nests across the Mojave Wasteland."
  34. Hubber: "{102}{}{Is it true? Does… did the Deathclaw really exist?}"
    (Hubber's dialogue)
  35. The Vault Dweller: "{110}{}{What do you know about the Deathclaw?}"
    Beth: "{240}{}{The Deathclaw is the most evil thing to rise out of the ashes after the War. Some say it's a powerful ghost from the war that haunts the land. It's no ghost, it's as real as you and me. It's 20 feet tall with teeth as big as your arm. It's some kind of demon that found it's way here when the world was engulfed in fire.}"
    (Beth's dialogue)
  36. The Courier: "Tell me about the Rangers."
    Stepinac: "We're part scout, part commando, part sheriff. The training is brutal, and I'd say eight out of ten recruits washes out before the end. Before you get your Ranger badge, you've got to prove you can be quieter than a shadow and more ferocious than a Deathclaw."
    (Stepinac's dialogue)
  37. The Chosen One: "{244}{}{How's the glasses?}"
    Renesco: "{951}{}{Goddamn whatever Deathclaw or marketing director spawned you! You WANT something?! Here! HERE! Take THIS! Take ALL I have! Anything to get you to LEAVE ME ALONE!}"
    (Renesco's dialogue)
  38. New Reno prostitute: "{331}{}{Wanna pretend we're deathclaws in mating season?}"
    (New Reno prostitute's dialogue)
  39. New Reno prostitute: "{398}{}{So he dresses up in this Deathclaw costume, then…}"
    (New Reno prostitute's dialogue)

Non-canon

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Fallout 2 Official Strategies & Secrets p. 27: "Deathclaws were originally created to replace humans during close-combat search-and-destroy missions. They were derived from mixed animal stock and then refined by the Master, using genetic manipulation. The resulting creature is almost unbelievably fast and powerful. Deathclaws are well named—they are the toughest animals that you will encounter in the Wastes."
    "Unless you have Combat Armor, extremely heavy weaponry, and a lot of StimpacksIn-game spelling, running for the exit hexes at the first sign of a Deathclaw is your best chance of survival. If you're well equipped and want to stick it out, though, get in at least one shot at long range, because Deathclaws move so fast that you're unlikely to get another long-range attack as they charge you. They'll always close rapidly so they can use their powerful claws to tear and rend you. For maximum damage, use a Called Shot to the eyes when you shoot them. However, even with Called Shots, you'll need several good hits to put a Deathclaw down—use extreme caution (and save often) when fighting them."
    Deathclaws being genetically engineered before the Great War and later refined by the Master is mentioned in the Fallout 2 Official Strategies & Secrets strategy guide, written by Fallout 2 lead designer, Matt Norton, as well as in Fallout Tactics.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Fallout Bible 0: "2235 The Enclave experiments on deathclaws, attempting to create special fighting units for waging war in hostile environments."
  3. Fallout Bible 0: "2242 May 17 Enclave animal handlers drop a Deathclaw unit into Vault 13 from a safe distance to kill anyone investigating the Vault and cloak the Enclave's presence. Other Deathclaws are sent into the desert surrounding Vault 13 to check for any escapees or witnesses."
  4. Fallout 3 Official Game Guide Game of the Year Edition p. 80: "Kidd
    Kidd is part of a group of likeminded Ghouls that decided to forge ahead into unexplored territories under the leadership of Sanders, and set up a new Ghoul Settlement to rival Underworld. Kidd and Wint are leaving this area at speed, as their camp has been compromised by Deathclaws they had tragically overlooked the whereabouts of."
    (Fallout 3 Official Game Guide Game of the Year Edition Wasteland Census)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 "The Origins of Fallout", part 3 by Scott Campbell
  6. 6.0 6.1 Chris Taylor at No Mutants Allowed forum
  7. Fallout Bible 8, As always, firm chests just out of reach
    Fallout Bible 8, Deathclaws...
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