Originally created before the Great War by the government and the military to supplement human troops in battle, deathclaws were derived from mixed animal stock, primarily from the very common Jackson's Chameleon. They were then soon to be refined by the Master, by using genetic manipulation and the Forced Evolutionary Virus to enhance them as one of his minions. The resulting creature is incredibly fast, powerful with its sharp claws, and almost intelligent.
Despite their apparent origin with the Master, deathclaws were a relatively common sight in 2102Appalachia.
Deathclaws are tough and formidable melee combatants. Their appearance is also more detailed compared to their Fallout 3 and New Vegas predecessors; they have darker, scaled skin, longer horns (which seem to curve more downward rather than upward), shorter claws and a more draconic, reptilian head and face. Close inspection of their feet will reveal what appears to be a single enlarged toe claw on each foot, similar to prehistoric raptors. The Massachusetts deathclaws are more physically dynamic, showing abilities such as running on all fours when in combat or climbing obstacles, behaviors never seen in the deathclaws of previous titles. Deathclaws can be found anywhere in the Commonwealth, but appear more frequently in the Glowing Sea. When observed from a distance, deathclaws can be seen throwing dirt over what could be egg clutches. They are also known to perch atop hills, rock outcroppings and boulders surveying the landscape.
Deathclaws are the results of a pre-War experiment that involved creating a mutation of the Jackson's chameleon, along with several other species, to use as weapons on the battlefield. They are strong, agile predators that will attack enemies on sight. Their long, sharp claws are capable of inflicting great, oftentimes deadly, amounts of damage, hence their name.
Deathclaws have a very high amount of health for creatures of their level and are incredibly resistant to most damage types, particularly energy damage. Their hides have been known to reflect lasers when fired directly at them. Their versatile combat style makes them a hefty opponent even at lower levels. When aggravated, they will initiate combat by roaring and stomping the ground, causing a shockwave.
While they predominantly use their namesake claws for dealing damage, they may also headbutt their foes to stagger them. Their power attack comes in the form of a wide-swinging claw slash which deals significant damage. Deathclaws are known to use both hands to throw nearby cars at opponents that are out of melee distance.
Deathclaws have the ability to instantly kill the Sole Survivor or other humanoids, either by grabbing and smashing them into the ground, stabbing them or decapitating its foe with its claws. This maneuver only occurs when the Sole Survivor has low enough health, although this is relative; higher percentages of health at a low level can still result in the instant-kill attack, but at higher levels, it may not occur until the player character has very low health. At other times, the deathclaw may pick up the player character and slam them into the ground forcibly, causing moderate damage. The instant kill can also be nullified by wearing any type of power armor. Instead, the deathclaw will grab the Sole Survivor and stagger them, draining their AP completely. A deathclaw will also toss sand into the air to provide a brief distraction.
The deathclaws have a substantial level of natural armor and are resistant to damage on their dark, scaled parts, leaving the belly as a weak spot which takes increased damage. However, due to their hunched posture, this area is difficult to hit. The Penetrator perk allows the Sole Survivor to hit the deathclaw anywhere while using V.A.T.S., even if the belly is obscured by other body parts or even walls. They can dodge gunshots and zigzag while charging the shooter, making them even harder to hit. If one of their legs becomes crippled, a broken bone can be seen stabbing out of the skin, and they will move slowly. With both legs crippled they are unable to move at all. It is also possible to shoot off the end of their tail.
Their model size makes them ungainly on uneven ground, which can be used against them. Their inability to climb or jump (aside from scripted events such as in Concord) renders their close-combat style useless if attacked from high enough ground. If they cannot find a path to their opponent, they will flee and hide behind cover until their target is reachable again. Many of their attacks can also be avoided by keeping a constant pace, which allows the player character to simply outrun their claw strikes.
The variants that can be encountered are based on the player character's level. Different variations become increasingly more common with higher levels. For example, where one might expect to encounter a normal deathclaw at lower levels, they might encounter an alpha deathclaw once they pass a certain level. The higher the player character's level, the more chance of the next difficulty of deathclaw to spawn in its place. Scripted encounters, such as on top of Haymarket Mall and at Lynn Woods, have a higher chance of spawning a next-stage deathclaw than randomly-encountered wasteland ones.
Normal deathclaws, defaulted to level 22, are highly dangerous for those poorly leveled and still present a challenge at higher levels. Deathclaws will charge the target while defending their weak belly with their head, making it difficult to land a shot to the weak spot even in V.A.T.S.
An alpha deathclaw can be encountered by flipping the breaker at the top of the tower in Lynn Woods, on the roof of Haymarket Mall (two may spawn on the roof) and another near Cabot House. They may also be encountered in the Glowing Sea and west of Natick Banks. Alpha deathclaws have horns that spread forward and up, while a regular deathclaw is forward and down. Alpha deathclaws also have rust-colored skin.
The glowing deathclaw is a highly irradiated version of the standard deathclaw. A green light emits from the skin between their scales, and they inflict radiation damage on top of their massive ballistic damage. They can start spawning in as low as level 25, replacing several of the randomly encountered varieties including those above Haymarket Mall and Robotics Pioneer Park.
Matriarchs, as the name implies, are the female leaders of the species. They have less health than an alpha, but more than a normal deathclaw. Their horns curve out and down, compared to the alpha's forward and up. They start to appear when the player character is around level 35, and will replace some randomly encountered deathclaws in the wasteland.
A scripted savage deathclaw may potentially be found in the Museum of Witchcraft. This event is leveled and part of a side mission. The Sole Survivor can choose to fight but can also run away or sneak through it. If the player character has a high enough level, they may encounter savage deathclaws in random encounters, such as within the Glowing Sea or near Natick Banks.
The albino deathclaw is a pale version of the deathclaw, with more health, that can be encountered after reaching level 71. This deathclaw type's high health can make it a worthy adversary and it will only lose 1/4 of its health from a shot from the Mysterious Stranger.
The chameleon deathclaw will begin to spawn at Level 81. Its default color is a slightly more sandy tone of a regular deathclaw, but when aggravated, it will display vibrant colors depending on its movements in battle. It flickers between stone gray, acid green, red, orange and teal. When killed, its body retains the last color it was displaying.
Mythic deathclaws are the highest non-legendary tier of all deathclaw variants and can be encountered starting from level 91. On rare occasions, they can be encountered from level 75, though bugs have caused them to spawn as early as level 24 outside of the Starlight Drive In. These level with the player character, so they are immune to the Wasteland Whisperer perk.
Deathclaws can be encountered anywhere in the Commonwealth, but some locations are more frequent deathclaw hunting grounds than others. Below is a list of possible deathclaw locations.
A scripted deathclaw encounter in Concord during the When Freedom Calls quest, after defeating Gristle. It is probably the first deathclaw players will meet in the game.
Sometimes a bug will occur, causing this deathclaw to be stuck in the ground.
All over the Commonwealth as random encounters, including possible attacks on any owned settlement.
A leveled deathclaw is scripted to appear at Garden Terrace on the roof of Haymarket Mall. Sometimes a bug will occur, preventing the deathclaw from jumping onto the terrace, so it will remain hanging onto the side of the mall, or permanently passive until the player attacks it.
Two random encounters can be triggered by throwing the switch on top of the tower in Lynn Woods. This can be repeated every few days once the area has respawned.
One can be found guarding the entrance to Old Gullet sinkhole. It is passive until it detects you when you first encounter it; once killed, respawns will often be permanently passive until attacked.
A scripted deathclaw can be encountered at the bottom level of the Kendall Hospital.
Two deathclaws can be found west of Natick Banks, by a few satellite dishes, fighting a behemoth. A leveled deathclaw can be found lurking around an abandoned garage with a tanker on the side of the building, a normal deathclaw can be found on the farm just up the road from the Matriarch, and one or two leveled deathclaws may be found around the church, fighting a group of leveled super mutants (depending on if the mutants were killed, prior to the player's arrival)
One can be found in the Robotics Pioneer Park, inside the first house from the fast travel point. Like the Gullet Sinkhole deathclaw, there is a chance that consequent respawns will be passive towards the player until attacked.
One can be found east of The Slog near a bus on the overhead road. You can see it from the snack bar if you look towards the road to the east at the bus. It will come down and through the water towards you if you shoot at it.
A lone deathclaw can be encountered on the Island, east of the ruined church. A rocky outcropping nearby has two deathclaw nests, often with deathclaw eggs. May sometimes be passive instead of hostile.
Two deathclaws may be found in the bus stop, west-southwest of the Galactic Zone in Nuka-World. One will be patrolling the area, while the second will spawn when the Sole Survivor enters the middle of the area. The second deathclaw will be a higher level spawn.
There is a permanent deathclaw nest on the southwest side of the tarn due south of the federal ration stockpile and it usually has a non-pristine egg. The nest contents respawn at least once for certain and may continue to do so if looted. The nest owner may or may not be around. Other nests can spawn occasionally but are random. One such location is southwest of Forest Grove marsh. These are independent of "the Devil's Due" nest which requires the pristine egg.
Shooting a deathclaw's limbs will cause the bone to become visible by the elbow.
In the quest The Devil's Due when returning the egg, the deathclaw guarding the nest is scripted to be permanently friendly to the player character and their followers as long as the nest is not interacted with after the egg is returned.
Deathclaws are apparently smart enough to dodge grenades if thrown at them.
It is possible to shoot the tail off of a living deathclaw. Likewise, it is possible for an alpha deathclaw with no tail to spawn by the Lynn Woods siren.
It is possible to encounter and possibly tame a mythic deathclaw as early as level 16, through the deathclaw cage in the Wasteland Workshop add-on.
The sound effect used for a deathclaw's claw strikes is identical to that of werewolves from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Bethesda Game Studio's fifth entry in their Elder Scrolls series and the last game they developed prior to Fallout 4.
If the Far Harbor and Wasteland Workshop add-ons are both installed, it is possible to build the associated cages to import deathclaws onto the Island.
If a deathclaw takes sufficient damage from an engagement, it will run off and usually come back later. However, this is a new engagement and the deathclaw will run off quickly.