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The Fallout world exists in an alternate timeline that completely diverged from our own timeline after World War II.[Non-game 1][Non-game 2][Non-game 3] From this split all the way up until the Great War in 2077, a technologically advanced retrofuturistic atomic age representation of the 1950s dominated the culture and society of the Fallout world.

In particular, the United States was dominated by the continuation of a corrupted American Dream and an overly suppressive form of American exceptionalism. The science-fiction anthology Worlds of Tomorrow, released during the Golden Age of Science Fiction in the 1950s, heavily influenced this representation.


Although events in the Fallout universe and the real world diverge around the late-1940s, the defining moment of the Fallout universe was the Great War of 2077. Dwindling petroleum reserves across the planet led to a series of regional wars for resource control, and economies began to collapse as most nations were left without this vital lifeline. Alternative sources of energy were explored, leading to the maturation of nuclear fission technology, as well as various innovations in solar and hydroelectric power, and even nuclear fusion, but none of these options were sufficient to serve the global population's ever-growing need for energy.

With the available reserves of crude oil in the world diminishing, the communist government of the People's Republic of China declared war on the United States of America, invading Alaska in the hope of capturing the few remaining sources of crude oil there. The Sino-American War, as it came to be known, raged for eleven years, eventually culminating in a full nuclear exchange between China and the United States. Both nations had built up huge stockpiles of nuclear weapons over the years, and the mutual attack drew in enemies and allies from all across the globe, igniting a powder keg that had been building throughout the century-long cold war. Although the conflict lasted only two hours, the destruction it brought was staggering and utterly complete. More energy was released in the early moments of this exchange than in every previous global conflict combined. This global nuclear conflict came to be known as the "Great War".

What little remained when the smoke cleared was harsh and unforgiving. Ninety years after the Great War, humanity struggled to survive. On the surface, bandits and organized gangs fought over the crumbling remains of once-great cities, and mutants prowled the irradiated wastes, taking refuge in places too tainted for human habitation. Underground, a “fortunate” few enjoyed the relative safety and comfort of the Vaults, designed before the war with the stated purpose of protecting residents and their descendants from nuclear annihilation. Some planned to keep the world out, others sought to connect with and repopulate the outside. Wherever humanity survived, it was under constant threat by ravenous mutants, rogue machines, vicious raiders, and all manner of hostile mutant creatures.

Most of the events of the series take place in the United States. The first two games, Fallout and Fallout 2, were set in New California, the remains of the West Coast, in which the Master and the Enclave were the region's main threats. The third game, Fallout Tactics, took place in the The Belt, between the city of Chicago and Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. The fourth game, Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel, took place in northern Texas in the town of Carbon and the ghoul city of Los. The fifth game, Fallout 3, was set on the East Coast of the United States in an area called the Capital Wasteland; this included the remains of Washington, D.C., parts of Virginia, Pittsburgh and Maryland. The sixth game, Fallout: New Vegas, took place in the Mojave Wasteland which included parts of California, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada. Fallout 4 is set in the Commonwealth, a region consisting of Boston, Massachusetts, and the metro area, including notable landmarks in the City of Boston and the City of Cambridge, among others. Fallout 76 takes place in Appalachia.

Setting overview

The divergence concept allowed the development team creative freedom to develop the game as they saw fit. The core idea was a dark game world, based on the horrors that 1950's science often predicted for a future apocalyptic world, balanced with humor.[1] This has influenced all levels of development, first and foremost the art style and the technology of the setting.


Aesthetically, it is a future inspired by what the people of the 50s thought it would be: Road cruisers with an Art Deco aesthetic and fins, dominant Art Deco, Googie, and Raygun Gothic[2] architecture (Brutalist, Usonian,[3] steel constructions, Lustron, Neoclassical, American colonial, Federal, and Victorian as well), reel-to-reel computers, big, bulky power armor (inspired by Wasteland and Starship Troopers), large and clunky robots, and so on and so forth. The idea was pitched by Leonard Boyarsky and eventually accepted by the team.[4][5]

However, the game's aesthetics have been inspired by a great variety of sources spanning most of the 20th century. These include movies Forbidden Planet (1956), La Jetée (1962), Star Wars (1977), Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981), Blade Runner (1982), Brazil (1985), Batman (1989), Ghost in the Shell (1995), and The City of Lost Children (1995), which played on an almost continuous loop in the artists' office. Frank Miller's and Geoff Darrow's work on Hard Boiled and Big Guy and Rusty, the Boy Robot[6][7][8] Urban and suburban U.S. of the 1940s and 1950s also inspired some of the artists, including vehicle design, signage, architecture, and art.[9]

In one of the previews, Tim Cain even pointed out that while the general framework of retrofuturistic art is there, the "rule of cool" was in effect: Any time one of the design team came across a picture of a weapon or piece of armor from anywhere they liked (including Soldier of Fortune or Ladies' Home Journal) and they felt it was good enough to include, it was added. It reminded him of Mystery Science Theater and their approach to jokes: Not everyone would get it, but those who did would appreciate it.[10]


Seriously, the artists just thought that 50's tech looked cool. So they set out to make a future science that looked like what the Golden Era of science fiction thought that future science would look like (if you can follow that sentence). Vacuum tubes, ray guns, mutants, the whole works. And I think they succeeded quite well.Tim Cain

As can be seen in the above quote, the technology of the setting were dictated by the technology and fiction of the Golden Age of Science Fiction, namely the 1950s. As such, Fallout included vacuum tube electronics, rather than the integrated circuits popularized in subsequent decades (although the Transistor and use of integrated circuits would remain as a somewhat controversial part of the series design and aesthetic), ray gun energy weapons, giant mutants, the whole nine yards.[11] The aforementioned 1956 movie Forbidden Planet was shown to artists as a summary of what the technology of Fallout should look: An honest 1950s vision of the future, with clunky robots, ray guns, and the general "feel". Some elements came from much later movies, as is the case with the T-51 power armor, inspired by the armor worn by thugs from The City of Lost Children (1995).[8]

However, the setting isn't meant to accommodate every bit of junk science that comes to mind. Scott Campbell specifically introduced the Forced Evolutionary Virus to provide a more plausible explanation for the more stunning mutations found in the setting, without handwaving it as the "power of radiation", which would harm versimilitude.[12]


The nuclear Armageddon in the back-story was between the US and China. After shipping several people asked me why China and not the old standby, the Soviet Union. I made the choice when I remembered experiences with Oleg, a Moscow developer I worked with months before when I was assistant-producing a typing game. Once, in the middle of a phone conversation, I heard some muffled bangs, and the phone went quiet. When I asked him what the noise was, he replied, "Oh, it was just the Russian mob firing their guns in the street." I thought he was joking - he wasn't. After that, I had a really hard time believing that the once mighty USSR would be in a position to threaten the world any time soon. So I turned to the next major communist country that typifies "the East": China.Scott Campbell, Origins of Fallout, No Mutants Allowed

While Fallout is based on the future visions of the 1950s, it is not the 1950s transposed to the future. One of the most noticeable changes is the replacement of the Soviet Union with China as the communist foil to the capitalist, democratic United States. As pictured in the above quote, Scott Campbell believed the post-collapse Russia could not be a convincing arch-enemy of the United States. However, considering the 1980s and 1990s concern about East Asian countries dominating the global economy, China was very plausible.[13] The political situation did not parallel real world developments. The hardline policy towards China mimics the U.S. foreign policy of the 1950s and the 1980s, with Fallout 3 and Fallout 76 emphasizing the MacCarthyist and HUAC aspects of the setting, following the example of Van Buren.[14] The Soviet Union also existed as late as 2077, whereas in our world, it collapsed in 1991.[15][16]

The Nevada state flag.
(Note the addition of "Southwest Commonwealth" in the left canton).

Domestic politics of the United States were an interesting modification of real-world tendencies. By 1969, the 50 states of the nation had been unified into 13 super-states, the commonwealths.[17] The real reason behind this was because Leonard Boyarsky believed the design was cool and illustrated the changed America much better.[18] This was not elaborated upon until much later, in Van Buren and after its failure, Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas, Fallout 4, and Fallout 76.


My idea is to explore more of the world and more of the ethics of a post-nuclear world, not to make a better plasma gun.[19]

The society of the Fallout setting is an interesting mix of contemporary and modern elements. The pre-War society was inspired by 1950s Americana, including widespread consumerism, fascination with technology, staple 1950s TV Dinners remaining popular, fervent patriotism and anti-communism, though notably, it lacks the many less appealing elements of the time. There was no institutionalized racism, widespread anti-feminism, or suppression of sexual minorities in pre-War America.[20] Gender stereotypes were still present, though they did not constrict one's life to the same degree as in the 1950s.[21]

In general, the post-nuclear society is far more egalitarian than the source material would imply, reflecting modern sentiments and tendencies. Women fight alongside men, occupy positions of influence, and even serve in armies on equal terms. Racism is conspicuously absent in the games, replaced by hatred towards mutated humans.[22]

The culture of the Fallout universe is that as envisioned in the 1950s, in essence modern Americana. Although the subculture movements, like Hippie, Beatnik, and Punk were around, their movements just never materialized as mainstream.[23]

Major events

Main article: Timeline

Before the Great War

Main article: Pre-War countries

World map

For most of human history, the Fallout universe and the real world shared a common timeline. Fallout draws its music from the 1940s and 50s in addition to the decades afterward. However, in 1945, significant political and technological differences in the Fallout timeline set it on a different course. In 1947, the circumstances involving the invention of the transistor are muddled and miniaturization of electronics was neglected. In 1969, the United States adopted a system of 13 Commonwealths. In 1970, China failed to adopt any free market reforms and ended up retaining a political and economic structure similar to what existed beginning in 1949. In 1991, the USSR did not collapse.

No major international conflicts took place until the middle of the twenty-first century. In 2052, the oil-rich Middle East nations raised oil prices causing the economic collapse of many smaller countries. The European Commonwealth (analogous to the real-world European Union), similarly dependent on oil imports from the Middle East, began the Resource Wars by responding with military force. The United Nations, weakened by its inability to prevent the conflict, attempted to intervene. Many of its member nations responded by withdrawing, with the UN disbanding that year.

The United States, supplied with oil from Texas and Mexico, escaped any direct impact from the Resource Wars. However, the U.S. would soon have significant problems of its own. In 2052, the Texas oil fields ran dry, making the country severely vulnerable to energy shortages. In 2053, the New Plague began to ravage the U.S. population, causing an estimated 200,000 deaths and prompting the government to close the country's international borders. Nuclear fears gripped the country when, in the same year, Tel Aviv was destroyed by a terrorist nuclear weapon, and, in the following year, warring nations exchange nuclear weapon strikes in the Middle East. In response, the Americans began Project Safehouse: a series of underground Vaults designed to survive nuclear war or an epidemic.

In 2059, oil resources grew increasingly scarce. To secure the Alaskan oil fields, the United States ramped up its military presence in that state, creating the Anchorage Front Line. Relations with Canada grew increasingly strained as the Americans pressed to have their military units stationed on Canadian soil to protect the Alaskan pipeline.

In 2060, the Middle Eastern oil fields ran dry, not only ending the Resource Wars in Europe, but the European Commonwealth as well. Without a common enemy, the European nations fought among each other for the remaining resources. Fossil fuels became too expensive to use in automobiles and alternatives began to appear in the market. Advances in nuclear technology paved the way for nuclear fusion to replace traditional fossil fuel-based combustion engines in automobiles and other vehicles.

Great War

In 2066, the Resource Wars shifted to the other side of the globe. China, their oil reserves exhausted and their economy near collapse, invaded Alaska. America strong-armed Canada into allowing troops and planes to move across Canadian territory on their way to the Alaskan theater. Relations between the neighboring countries continued to worsen as the Americans help themselves to Canadian resources, ignoring Canadian protests. Many Americans began referring to Canada as "Little America," worsening relations.

In 2072, the Sino-American War raged on. While American power armor proved effective in localized conflicts, it fails to completely dislodge Chinese forces. The U.S. continued to demand more resources from Canada. When an attempt was made to sabotage the oil pipeline, the Americans (officially) began to annex Canada. In 2076, the annexation is complete. Also that year, Americans deployed the T-51b power armor to the Chinese mainland. The suits were highly effective and American troops cut a swath through Chinese territory.

In early 2077, the Americans reclaimed Alaska, but no armistice was signed. Those in positions to foresee the nuclear conflagration make final preparations: Robert House puts himself in stasis; the President and the Enclave retreat to the Poseidon oil rig. The American public, having been exposed to too many false alarms, largely ignored the warning sirens when the bombs begin to fall. Many Vaults are underpopulated as their doors shut.

In the early hours of October 23, 2077, the world—as everyone knew it—ended. Missiles and bombs rained from the sky, engulfing the world in flames, in an event that would become known as the Great War. Cities and nations fell, while humanity descended into a nuclear Dark Age. Many believed it was the end of human civilization, but instead, it was simply the beginning of a new and bloody chapter.

The Post-War world

A view of the Earth, post-war, showing the Americas and the Atlantic ocean.

The collapse of global civilization made it impossible to ascertain the full extent of the damage brought by the nuclear bombs. As viewed from orbit, there were clear signs of a global catastrophe, and much of the world's oceans were tinted green by radiation. The Great War's enduring legacy was the radiation that spread in its wake. Many of the plants and animals that survived the nuclear fire were killed by the irradiated rain that fell a week later. Of those that survived, many were mutated by 2080.

The American mainland was reduced to wasteland. Most major American cities, with a few exceptions such as Las Vegas, were razed by the bombs. Even the surviving cities were reduced to hellish ruin as society rapidly disintegrated. Although the Vaults were never intended to preserve the entire American population, enough of their residents and technology survived for them to jumpstart civilization when they opened.

While most areas were bombed, some areas like Appalachia, the Mojave Desert, and Zion Canyon were left mostly intact compared to other areas in the rest of the known United States.

Some locations had odd effects after the bombs fell such as Big MT having no mountain top, the Sierra Madre being covered in a strange mist, and the Island being covered in a radioactive fog.

New California and Appalachia benefited the most from these early openings. In 2083, Vault 12 established Necropolis in Bakersfield. Eight years later, Vault 8 established Vault City in Western Nevada, and the following year, the LA Vault established the Boneyard in Los Angeles. In 2102, Vault 76 opened, while outsiders came to rebuild and reclaim the land. Decades later, in 2142, former residents of Vault 15 established Shady Sands northwest of Necropolis.

The Mojave Wasteland was another incubator of civilization. This was due in no small part to Robert House's preparations; his secret missile defense systems ensured that Las Vegas and the surrounding desert was hit by fewer bombs than anywhere else in the region, and as time passed, the city was rebuilt through the combined efforts of House, the local tribals, and residents of Vault 21. Its infrastructure was so far advanced that, by 2281, it was, according to Mr. House, within a century of being able to launch a colonization spaceship.

In the East, the Capital Wasteland was also left surprisingly intact. Although unable to compete with the more advanced societies of the West, it was nonetheless able to support a local radio station, caravan routes and a large-scale water purification plant.

Similarly, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Boston were left relatively unharmed, being struck by only a single, high-yield nuclear weapon in an area that came to be known as the Glowing Sea. Like the Capital Wasteland, it too supported caravan infrastructure, regional radio broadcasts, and other such amenities.

Appalachia was left largely unaffected by the bombs, aside from mutations and radiation, most areas look very similar to their pre-war counterparts.

As these regions rose from the ashes, so too did new societies. The New California Republic was established in 2186 and would control all of New California a century later. The Brotherhood of Steel was founded days after the Great War and would become a technological powerhouse by 2150. The Enclave—descendants of the United States government and the military-industrial complex—made their presence felt in New California in 2237 and then in the Capital Wasteland in 2277. The Rome-obsessed slavers of Caesar's Legion arose in 2247, forged from the conquest of 87 tribes, and would control most if not all of Arizona and New Mexico, along with some holdings in eastern Utah and parts of southern Colorado.

While very little is known of the world beyond the former United States, Mexico, and Canada, things seem to be significantly worse in Great Britain and Ireland than in North America, as inhabitants of the Isles often emigrate to the American wastelands in search of fortune, opportunity, and a better life.


A ghoul from a piece of concept art

The distinctive creatures in the Fallout world arose after the Great War and were the result of exposure to radiation or the Forced Evolutionary Virus.

Radiation led to the spontaneous rise of many new species three years after the bombs fell. The new species were larger, hardier, and more dangerous than the animals and insects from which they mutated. Radscorpions, giant ants, and brahmin descended from scorpions, household ants, and cows, respectively.

Deathclaw art from the Fallout manual

In the destruction after the War, genetically modified creatures were also free to flourish in the wastes. One such creature, deathclaws, have grown in number to the point that they are commonplace where they were once considered a legend by wastelanders. The Enclave has also taken to further experimentation on the deathclaws, resulting in a now-extinct colony of intelligent deathclaws and deathclaws that have been implanted with control units for easier control.

Heavy exposure of radiation mutated some humans, who possessed a particular genetic trait, into ghouls. Although their decaying skin gave them a frightening, almost inhuman appearance, they generally retained their mental faculties: their ability to reason and communicate were left intact. Ironically, despite their physical decay, they had heightened senses and longer lifespans.

Varying degrees of exposure gave rise to diversity within the ghoul community. Ghouls exposed to prolonged radiation poisoning lost their intelligence and mutated into feral ghouls. Longer periods of radiation exposure resulted in further degeneration into glowing ones—ghouls with heightened physical capabilities who literally glow in the dark.

The remainder of mutations were caused by the Forced Evolutionary Virus (FEV). Its origins lie in the years preceding the Sino-American War. In an effort to defend against a Chinese biological attack, defense contractor West Tek initiated the Pan-Immunity Virion Project. The goal was simply to make the human immune system strong enough to resist any pathogen, natural, or engineered. Some of the side effects, discovered during testing, were increased size and strength. The U.S. Army seized the project in an effort to create a super-soldier. They moved the project to the Mariposa Military Base. They also sent a large sample to Vault 87 on the East Coast as part of the Vault Experiment.

The Master

Following the Great War, Mariposa was abandoned—the surviving leadership having left to form the Brotherhood of Steel. After laying dormant for 30 years, the base was rediscovered by Richard Moreau, an exile from Vault 8. After realizing that the FEV could be used to create super mutants, he attempted to raise an army but was defeated by the Vault Dweller.

Despite the destruction of the Mariposa base, a sample of its FEV was claimed by the Enclave. Using slave labor kidnapped from nearby Redding, the Enclave excavated Mariposa. Those slaves inadvertently exposed to the FEV mutated into a new batch of super mutants.

Fawkes, an intelligent super mutant

On the East Coast, the FEV sent to Vault 87 was used to create that area's own variety of super mutants. Shelton Delacroix, a Vault 87 security officer, was forcibly exposed to and mutated by it. While the mutation process took away much of his intelligence, he was, astoundingly, able to reclaim much of it by studying the Vault's database. A different strain of FEV was also tested on the civilian population in Huntersville, and The Institute experimented with another strain of the virus after the war. The FEV also made it into the hands Weston Lesko who inadvertently, but tragically, used it to mutate giant ants into fire ants.


The West

Main article: New California

The first part of The West is known as the "Core Region," mostly made up of New California. More specifically, New California stretches from Baja in the south to Klamath in the north. It covers most of the West Coast of the United States, including California and parts of Oregon and Nevada. It is a largely inhospitable region, which is why most people have chosen to seek refuge in the ruins of the old cities, where they have found (relative) safety in numbers. However, as resources grew more and more scarce, people and creatures came to consolidate into groups of their own kind, so locations are far more homogeneous than one might expect from a world ravaged by mutation.

The ghoul population of New California was mostly clustered around old Bakersfield (Necropolis), but were scattered after an attack by the Master's Army. Most of the surviving ghouls eventually found a home in Gecko or Broken Hills along with humans and super mutants, both far to the northeast of their former home.

Super mutants were plentiful in the Mariposa area from 2102 to 2162, and they sent patrols as far as to Los Angeles. After the Master's defeat, however, most of them retreated to the east.

Humans are the dominant species of the wasteland, and their main cities in New California are The Hub, Angel's Boneyard, NCR, Vault City, New Reno and San Francisco.

As of 2281, most of New California is part of the NCR.

Mojave Wasteland

Mojave at sunset

Main article: Mojave Wasteland

The Mojave Wasteland is synonymous with the old world Mojave Desert, spanning large portions of the pre-War states of California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona. It serves as the primary setting of Fallout: New Vegas.

Compared to other parts of the former United States, the Mojave survived the Great War relatively unscathed. Although during the Great War, 77 atomic warheads were launched at the city of Las Vegas and the surrounding areas, intricate defense systems set in place by wealthy businessman Robert House resulted in 59 of the warheads forcefully disarmed mid-flight, nine were blasted out of the sky by a laser defense system atop the Lucky 38 Hotel & Casino, and the remaining nine hit the surrounding desert.[24]

There are several factions vying for power in the region, such as the New California Republic, Caesar's Legion, the Great Khans, the Brotherhood of Steel and Mr. House himself, overseeing the Three Families that run the New Vegas casinos. Two surviving pockets of super mutants reside in the area as well, with one at a ski lodge on Mount Charleston and the other the self-declared State of Utobitha on Black Mountain.

East Coast

Main article: East Coast

While, strictly speaking, the "East Coast" describes the entire Eastern Seaboard of the continental United States, within the Fallout universe, it chiefly refers to the northeastern U.S. Its major locations were the Capital Wasteland along the coast, The Pitt, the Commonwealth and the Island.

The Capital Wasteland encompassed the ruins of Washington, D.C. and the surrounding wilderness. The city's downtown, though surrounded by rubble and accessible only through its Metro system, was a hub of activity. The Galaxy News Radio building was operational, the signal amplified by dish atop the Washington Monument. A contingent of slavers operates out of the Lincoln Memorial. Brotherhood of Steel paladins, super mutants and Talon Company mercenaries fought to control The Mall. The Museum of History housed a ghoul colony.

Just outside the city, the Brotherhood of Steel had a base in the ruins of the Pentagon. Along the banks of the Potomac River, Project Purity operated out of the Jefferson Memorial.

The wilderness surrounding Washington, D.C. was home to various vaults and settlements. Rivet City was the most successful settlement and was instrumental in delivering Aqua Pura to the area when Project Purity was completed. Vault 87 produced the region's super mutant population. Vault 101 was the home of the Lone Wanderer.

To the immediate south of the Capital Wasteland was the former coastal resort of Point Lookout. To the Wasteland's immediate west was Adams Air Force Base where the Enclave sought to rebase itself after the destruction of their original East Coast base, Raven Rock, by the Lone Wanderer.

The Pitt was the steelyard and the surrounding area in the ruins of Pittsburgh. It was infested by wildmen and trogs until a Brotherhood of Steel detachment led by Paladin Owyn Lyons cleared the area on their way to the Capital Wasteland. They left behind Ishmael Ashur, one of their own, who transformed The Pitt into a slave colony. Just outside were the settlements of Ronto and Monroeville.

The Commonwealth consists of the city of Boston and its surrounding towns, which weren't hit as hard as many of the other cities in the United States, leaving most of the land relatively intact. Several settlements have popped up around the Commonwealth, offering safe haven to the people of the wasteland. Diamond City, established in a baseball stadium in the center of the city and Goodneighbor, established in the Old State House, are the two most prominent settlements in the Commonwealth.

To the immediate north of the Commonwealth is the Island, an island off the coast of Maine consisting of the town of Far Harbor. This is the only remaining bastion for the Harbormen, as the only place on the island not affected by the Fog, a radioactive fog that has made many of the other settlements on the island inhabitable. The Island is also the home of Acadia, a refuge for synths located inside a wind farm to the west of Far Harbor, and a chapter of the Children of Atom, found in the submarine base known as the Nucleus.

To its immediate west, the pre-War amusement park of Nuka-World can be found, which has become the home of three vicious raider factions who seek to expand into the various sections of the park. Appalachia has various intact areas, except its capital, Charleston, which was destroyed after the Great War, the plant life seems less affected by radiation, compared to the rest of America.


Main article: Factions

New California

There are very few factions in New California that aren't limited to one or two towns. After the defeat of the Master's super mutant army, which was a major military force in 2161, the New California Republic became the most influential organization that unites several major towns, including Shady Sands (its capital, now known mostly simply as NCR), the Hub, Junktown, Maxson, and Dayglow. The NCR is actively trying to unite California under a single government. Though seemingly successful, they have and are currently meeting heavy resistance, such as Caesar's Legion to the east as well as various raider gangs.

In contrast, the Brotherhood of Steel is a mysterious techno-religious organization, with roots in the U.S. military. While few in number, they make up for this with their arsenal of pre-War and post-war technology: They have laser weapons, power armor, surgical enhancements and combat implants. Unlike the NCR, the Brotherhood is not interested in conquests nor in saving humanity, but instead in keeping their secrecy and preserving and developing technology.

Prior to the rise of the NCR, Unity was among the largest and most well-organized factions populating California. Comprised of the Master's mutant and human followers, Unity spread across New California, establishing churches and missions in many prominent human settlements. Following the destruction of Mariposa Military Base and the Master himself by the Vault Dweller in 2162, Unity lost most of its power and collapsed in upon itself without the dynamic vision of the Master to guide it. Surviving mutants fled east, while the Children of the Cathedral ceased to exist as an organized religion.

The Enclave are the descendants of the United States government, and consider everyone other than themselves worthy of eradication. They used to operate from an oil rig off the coast of California, but left the area after the destruction of its headquarters and when the NCR cleared them out of Navarro. It moved its base of operations from the West Coast to the northwestern edge of the Capital Wasteland, inside of a sprawling underground facility known as Raven Rock.

East Coast

Capital Wasteland

The Brotherhood's "Citadel," entrance

The most powerful faction in the Capital Wasteland was the Brotherhood of Steel. Originally an expeditionary force sent from the Lost Hills bunker in New California to reestablish contact with the Midwestern Brotherhood and to retrieve any advanced technology from the East Coast, they were later ordered to establish a permanent presence when they discovered of a large cache of technology in the ruins of the Pentagon (including the two-story high, super combat robot Liberty Prime). The expedition's leader, Owyn Lyons, altered their mission further: instead of making the protection of technology their top priority, it would be the protection of people. While it endeared them to the area residents, they bore a heavy price. Their New California superiors cut them off from all support and a number of their own members splintered off to form their own chapter. Despite the lack of support, they would be instrumental in securing the region's crown jewel, Project Purity, and crushing the Enclave remnants.

Squire Maxson in the Citadel

Years later, Arthur Maxson, the last descendant of the venerated Maxson family line, assumed leadership, reconciling with the Outcast chapter and introducing other reforms. The Eastern Brotherhood grew from a beleaguered splinter faction into a major military power. They became the de facto governing body of the Capital Wasteland after defeating the Enclave and organizing the distribution of clean water produced by Project Purity, forcing their political evolution into an Order-State somewhat similar to the Teutonic "Ordensstaat" of old. At some point, the Eastern Brotherhood (under Elder Maxson) also reestablished contact with and subsequently received support from Brotherhood command in Lost Hills. This newly empowered Eastern Brotherhood ruled over the Capital Wasteland as its own "country," and endeavored to project its power and influence all over the Eastern Seaboard.

Augustus Autumn

Possessing more advanced technology (though lacking in leadership), the Enclave's eastern contingent proved a match for the Brotherhood. Like the Brotherhood, the Enclave in the Capital Wasteland originated from New California. Prior to their defeat in that region, Augustus Autumn's father led a detachment to Raven Rock in the Capital Wasteland to establish their presence in the area. A mainframe computer at Raven Rock, through the persona of John Henry Eden, took over Enclave operations when the California Contingent was defeated. Like its California predecessor, they attempted to kill a majority of the area's residents through a lethal toxin but were stopped by Lone Wanderer and the Brotherhood of Steel.

Rivet City, entrance

Rivet City was the most powerful, native faction of the area. Located inside a beached aircraft carrier, they were the region's most developed and scientifically advanced settlement. Their fame was well known throughout the region. It boasted a well-armed security force, a research lab, and a museum. After the Enclave was driven from the Jefferson Memorial, Rivet City security was responsible for distributing freshwater throughout the region.

Talon Company mercs

In the surrounding wilderness, the settlements of Megaton, Tenpenny Tower, Canterbury Commons, the Republic of Dave, Little Lamplight and their exiles in Big Town scratched out a living. Although the Brotherhood established a modicum of security, enough to establish some trade, these settlements would still be troubled by super mutants, raiders, slavers and other wasteland creatures. Mercenary groups such as the unscrupulous (if ubiquitous) Talon Company and the smaller but more principled Reilly's Rangers carved a niche for themselves by picking up the slack in one way or another, while other organizations such as the Regulators (unrelated to the New California faction of the same name) and Littlehorn & Associates indulged in vigilante justice and more questionable arbitration, respectively.

The Pitt, a large settlement to the north of the Capital Wasteland, had its own army and established society, led by Ishmael Ashur, a former member of the Brotherhood of Steel. Ashur used slaves to help rebuild The Pitt, as it had the only known working steel mill in post-war America.

Point Lookout, a swampland south of the Capital Wasteland, was home to a unique mix of plant-worshipping tribals, inbred mutant swampfolk, and a small population of unmutated locals, in addition to outsiders come to seek their fortunes and exploit the local wildlife in equal measure.

The Commonwealth

Synth Retention crest

Of the major factions in the former Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the most well-known was the Institute, a secretive organization descended from Commonwealth Institute of Technology (CIT) personnel. The Institute was known for its manufacture and employ of synthetic humanoids, or "synths" for short. Mistrustful of the Commonwealth's people, the Institute sealed itself off from the surface, using synths and other topside agents to conduct experiments, surveillance, and even sabotage amid Commonwealth settlements, quickly instilling paranoia and prejudice against synths in many Commonwealth settlers. In addition to its scientific divisions, the Institute also possessed a Synth Retention Bureau, whose primary objectives were to keep track of Institute assets in the Commonwealth as well as recover lost, escaped, and/or reprogrammed synths, demanding work for which the formidable Courser model of synth was specially developed. The Institute was one of three groups that became embroiled in a Faction War over the future of the Commonwealth.

Railroad banner

The Institute's main opposition in the Commonwealth was the Railroad, an equally secretive faction which recognized synths as sentient beings and viewed the Institute's treatment of synths as nothing short of slavery. Based out of Old North Church following an Institute attack on their old headquarters, the Railroad conducted operations to liberate synths, give them new identities, and smuggle them out of the Commonwealth. The Railroad was organized into covert cells which operated independently of each other in order to mask their collective presence from the Institute and frequently vetted their next move via a supercomputer named P.A.M. It also employed part-time collaborators called Tourists, who assisted the Railroad in its fight against the Institute by feeding them intelligence, among other things. Commonwealth settlers praised the Railroad for opposing the Institute but had mixed opinions on its platform of synth liberty. The Railroad was one of three groups that became embroiled in a Faction War over the future of the Commonwealth.

Arthur Maxson aboard the Prydwen

The Brotherhood of Steel also established a base of operations in the Commonwealth as part of its endeavor to project its influence across the Eastern Seaboard. After one of its recon teams delivered a report detailing strange energy readings coming from the Institute, Elder Maxson headed up a fleet of Vertibirds centered around the Brotherhood flagship The Prydwen, establishing a permanent Commonwealth headquarters amid the ruins of the Boston Airport in order to locate and destroy the Institute and its synths for good. Under Maxson's command, the Brotherhood clashed with the Institute and rubbed shoulders with other factions in the area while continuing its long-term goals of collecting pre-War tech and eradicating threats to mankind. The Brotherhood of Steel was one of three groups that became embroiled in a Faction War over the future of the Commonwealth.

Preston Garvey

The Commonwealth Minutemen is distinct from other major Commonwealth factions in that their only goal was the protection of the people of the Commonwealth from the dangers of the Wasteland. Having styled themselves after militiamen of old and brandishing laser muskets and artillery, the Minutemen were once a powerful, coordinated fighting force endeared to Commonwealth settlers as selfless protectors of the people. In the wake of a devastating Mirelurk attack, they were forced to abandon their headquarters and took to wandering the wastes, offering protection to what settlements they could even while hemorrhaging recruits to dwindling morale. This downward trend culminated in a traitorous coup which wiped out the remaining Minutemen save for a small squad led by Preston Garvey. Garvey subsequently sought the Sole Survivor's aid in restoring the Minutemen to their former glory. The Minutemen could participate in the Faction War over the future of the Commonwealth at the behest of the Sole Survivor.

Diamond City, overlook

Among the multitude of settlements contending with super mutants, packs of roving feral ghouls, Institute synths, mutated critters, and the Commonwealth's numerous Raider gangs, the most successful civilian faction was Diamond City, a fortified settlement constructed from the ruins of a wikipedia:Fenway Park Pre-War baseball stadium, hailed as the "Great, Green Jewel of the Commonwealth" thanks to the emerald hue of its protective walls. In addition to being rather well-protected, it boasted its own radio station, science lab, reconstructive surgery center, town market, and even a detective agency. The local newspaper frequently called attention to the willful ignorance of the townspeople regarding the Institute's activities, stirring up latent paranoia much to the chagrin of Mayor McDonough, whom some townspeople theorized was actually a synth.

Memory Den

Goodneighbor was another notable settlement in Boston. It operated similarly to the red-light district it was built around. It housed its own market, a nightclub, a hotel with an in-house chem dealer, and a unique establishment called the Memory Den where patrons could relive pleasant memories to escape from the unpleasant realities of the wastes. Goodneighbor accepted all kinds, serving as a refuge of sorts for all those who were unwelcome in Diamond City, such as displaced ghouls and criminal elements alike. Goodneighbor's mayor, Hancock, felt that life in Goodneighbor had made him complacent, however.

Home in Covenant

Two other major settlements in the area were Bunker Hill, a mercantile hub built into the ruins of the Bunker Hill Memorial site which paid off Raider gangs to ensure safe passage for its caravans, and Covenant, a strangely idyllic anti-synth community (complete with white picket fence aesthetics) that had strict screening procedures.

A deceased Gunner

Other Commonwealth factions included: the Gunners, a troop of bloodthirsty mercenaries; the Atom Cats, a band of power armor-loving misfits; the crew of the USS Constitution, a contingent of landlocked robotic sailors; the Children of Atom, a fanatical religious group that worshiped radiation; and the Pillars of the Community, a seedy fraternity based out of Charles View Amphitheater.

Far Harbor

Off the coast of Maine lay a remote island where several distinct factions contended with radioactive fog, fearsome mutated sea creatures unknown to the rest of the Commonwealth, and each other. These were the citizens of Far Harbor, a town of hardy fisherfolk; cannibalistic Trappers driven crazy by the fog; Acadia, a colony of liberated synths; and the Island's resident fog-worshiping Children of Atom.

Nuka-World sign

Southwest of Boston lies Nuka-World, a pre-War amusement that houses a raider gangs known as the Operators, Disciples, and The Pack, along with enslaved traders. Nearby, other groups such as the Hubologists, a pseudoscientific cult with a sizable entry fee, live.

The Raiders sought to conquer and fortify areas of the park such as Galactic Zone, Kiddie Kingdom, Dry Rock Gulch, the Nuka-Cola bottling plant, and Safari Adventure zones, variously populated by a ghoul magician and his feral friends, a consortium of custom-built robots controlled by a malfunctioning mainframe, a wild man named Cito and his family of ghoulrillas. Amidst the rest of these groups, hostile, mutated animals such as cave crickets, bloodworms, and gatorclaws are also present within the park.


Due to the Scorched Plague and its unstoppable spread across the region, as of 2102 all factions that were once present are dead. However, humans started repopulating the region in 2103 while the Vault Dwellers have been valiantly fighting the scorchbeast queen.

FO76 Responders logo.png

The Responders are one of the first factions encountered in-game, the remnants of pre-War first responders, police officers, and firefighters. After the war, they set out to help all those displaced and suffering from the effects of the bombs, and attempted to restore order and goodness to Appalachia. Led by Maria Chavez, they headquartered in Charleston, until the Raiders destroyed the Summersville Dam, flooding the city and killing many. They relocated to Morgantown Airport, and ran volunteer training to any who wanted to join the cause.

Raiderlivehere wall d.png

The Raiders, in comparison, are a ruthless faction of murderers, thieves, cannibals, trappers and junkies. Originating from the wealthy visitors to the Top of the World ski resort, they resorted to their baser tendencies after the bombs fell. After being refused supplies by the overwhelmed Responders, and surviving the terrible winter of 2078, they decided they would do whatever it takes to ensure their survival, no matter how evil. Led by David Thorpe, they were located all across the Savage Divide, with the main base at the Top of the World.

FO76 Free States.png

The Free States were a group of anarchists who seceded from the United States shortly before the war. Deemed "Communists" by the government, they were outcast and strongly opposed by almost all those outside of their cause. Senator Samuel Blackwell, an undercover supporter, was shunned once his connection to the Free States was made public. Suspicious of the Vault program, they made their own concrete bunkers throughout The Mire region, left shortly after the bombs fell, and helped resettle the towns of Berkeley Springs and Harper's Ferry.

Fo1 Brotherhood Supply Crate.png

The Appalachian chapter of the Brotherhood, this group had the most "intimate" connection to the scorched plague. Actively fighting the scorchbeasts throughout the Cranberry Bog, these power armored soldiers started out as Taggerdy's Thunder, an army ranger division doing war games in Appalachia when the bombs fell. After attempting to establish contact with any military personnel they could, a connection was made with a Captain Roger Maxson, an old friend of soon-to-be Paladin Elizabeth Taggerdy, the leader of the Thunder. Maxson convinced her to join the cause, and the Appalachian chapter was formed. Headquartered at Fort Defiance, the old asylum, they ran patrols and combat missions all over the Bog, hoping to find and destroy the plague once and for all. After the failed Operation Touchdown claimed the lives of many senior officers, the brotherhood was left crippled, unable to fight back against the newly returning horde of scorched. They took one last stand at Fort Defiance, fighting bravely until there was nobody left to fight. As of 2103, a division of the Brotherhood from Lost Hills, the First Expeditionary Force, has arrived at their base at the ATLAS Observatory. Their main goal is to find out what happened to Taggerdy's Thunder and ultimately defeat the Scorched Plague.

Enclave symbol.svg

The Enclave is the most technologically advanced faction in the region. Led by "President" Thomas Eckhart, the Enclave inhabited the Whitespring bunker, and operated throughout the region. Eckhart was obsessed with retaliating against China but required the automated Defcon level to be raised. In failed attempts to increase it, Enclave operatives released the liberators and super mutants, to no avail. In a last-ditch effort, he unleashed the scorchbeasts, a byproduct of Enclave chemical testing. It succeeded, but due to internal conflicts in the bunker, the Enclave was eliminated before they could strike back at China.

The region was also home to minor factions, such as the Order of Mysteries, Cult of the Mothman, and Sons of Dane.

Developer quotes

We often develop technology not because it's great immediately, but because developing that technology helps us move toward its potential. We've had various forms of hybrid vehicles (gasoline combustion engine + ???) around for a long time. Most of them were pretty bad and impractical. We've had biofuels around for a while, but most of those are STILL bad and/or impractical. We saw tanks developed in WW1 that were absolute garbage.

All of those things were kind of crummy for a while, but if we hadn't gone through the stage of "Yeah... this is... okay, I guess," we would never have reached the subsequent stages. Coil/rail gun technology used to be completely impractical. Now it's reached the stage where maybe/sorta we could mount an enormous one on a destroyer and blast through a bunker with a huge slug from miles away. We're probably not going to have Eraser- or Fallout-style Gauss rifles for a while, but we see the potential.

In the Fallout universe, I think that the military appeal of weaponry that uses a small number of more-or-less universal ammunition types would be great. Today, we have NATO standards so that allies armies can share ammunition. But what if you could use the same ammunition type for powering a sniper rifle that you'd use for a devastating close-range weapon (e.g. a Microfusion Cell powering a Laser Rifle or a Plasma Rifle)? For a military force in the field, the flexibility of that would be immense.

Anyway, I considered the EWs in F:NV to have reached the point where they were starting to replace conventional weapons, but had not yet completely eclipsed them -- sort of like the early days of firearms, when they were still being used concurrently with bows.
J.E. Sawyer on energy weapons in the Fallout universe
I like vacuum tube tech and I think it pushes some interesting ideas, but it feels secondary in the series. One of the interesting properties of vacuum tubes is that they aren’t really affected by EMPs, such as those produced by a nuclear bomb blast. Some Soviet MiG-25s used vacuum tubes dominantly or exclusively, which would theoretically allow them to fly in the wake of a blast (assuming the pilots weren’t killed by radiation). Still, the robots in the series are affected by EMP grenades and similar attacks, so the state of technology isn’t represented consistently.J.E. Sawyer on the state of technology in the Fallout universe


  1. Tim Cain
  2. Fallout Retrospective Interview
  3. Although self-evident; Usonianhome01Int Template and Usonianhome02Int Template.
  4. Leonard Boyarsky Developer Profile: "As Art Director, I was responsible for the look and mood of the game (as far as visuals were concerned). I came up with the idea of the "future of the fifties" setting, and had to convince everyone that that was the way to go. I also came up with the idea/design for the "Vault Boy" and the "cards" (as I called them) showing him doing all the different things in humorous ways. By the way, he's not the Pip Boy, the Pip Boy is the little guy on your Pip Boy interface. The Vault Boy was supposed to evoke the feel of Monopoly cards, and the Pip Boy was based on the Bob's Big Boy mascot."
  5. Fallout Bible 8: "Hey, Rob - the basic theme of the Fallout games is that the world of 2077 had a retro-50s feel when the nukes dropped - sort of a "what people in the 50s imagined the future (and post-holocaust future) would be like." This theme translates into the "look" and the actual physics of the world (Torg-style, if you've ever played Torg) - so anyway, you get giant radioactive monsters, pulp science with lasers, blasters, vacuum tubes, big expensive cars with fins, Art Deco architecture, robots with brains in domes atop their heads, lots of tape reel computer machines, the whole "atomic horror" feel, and it explains the artistic style of the interface."
  6. Leonard Boyarsky Developer Profile: "I was really influenced by "The Road Warrior", "The City of Lost Children", and "Brazil" in terms of movies, and the comic book series "Hard Boiled"."
  7. Tim Cain: "I don't think I can answer this, since so many people has a hand in the design and scripting, and it seems everyone put in their own little in-joke or reference. I mean, I'm surprised by some of the things in the game!
    But some of the movies the inspired us were Road Warrior, Brazil, City of Lost Children, Blade Runner, Batman, Ghost in the Shell, On the Beach and of course, Star Wars. A lot of adventure ideas were variations on things I've seen in MUD's about 7 years ago at the peak of my playing.
    As far as books, oddly enough the book "Lord of Light" by Zelazny was an inspiration. Not so much for material but for the main character Sam. He was driven by a morality in that he was actually trying to help people from being oppressed, and I used to think "What would Sam do?" when testing an adventure that required the player to want to help a town.
    Of course, others on the team like to think "What would Brian Boytano do..." :)"
  8. 8.0 8.1 Tim Cain GDC talk
  9. Tony Postma: "Urban and Sub-urban America of the 40'-50's....the cars, the signage, the art, the architecture...all of it. I already had a few books with photos and documentation of the period. Also the comic books "Big Guy and Rusty, the Boy Robot" and "Mister X" by Dean Motter help with the machinery and the mood."
  10. CD Mag Fallout preview: "Any time one of the design team came across a picture of a weapon or piece of armor from anywhere (such as Soldier of Fortune or Ladies’ Home Journal) and it was “cool enough” to include, it was fair game. Entertaining gems have been imported from just about everywhere, hence almost everyone will find something about which to reminisce. Says Tim Cain, producer/lead programmer, “It reminds me of Mystery Science Theater. They always say, ‘People aren’t going to get all of our jokes, but the people who will get them will really appreciate them…’."
  11. Tim Cain: "Hey, we're not that old! I'll have to check my picture on the web page.
    Seriously, the artists just thought that 50's tech looked cool. So they set out to make a future science that looked like what the Golden Era of science fiction thought that future science would look like (if you can follow that sentence). Vacuum tubes, ray guns, mutants, the whole works. And I think they succeeded quite well.
    We didn't start out this way. Over the 3.5 years to make this game, things changed a lot (take a look in /program/goodies, for example). One day I may write the story of the making of this game. Not in my wildest dreams did I imagine what the process would be like. The high points were very high, and the low points were very, very low. If I had to do it again..."
  12. The Origins of Fallout: "Why did we bother with the Forced-Evolutionary Virus and not just say radiation caused the mutations? Unfortunately, science tells us high levels of radiation just kill things. Lower levels can cause mutations, but more than 99% aren't advantageous, and often lead to early death. I wanted to explain how something like a Radscorpion could have evolved and proliferated in the course of 60 years - and to me, "it's the power of radiation!" was way-too-obvious junk science.
    Because I wanted a plausible game back-story, I wanted explanations that were a little more scientifically plausible (or at least more believable than the plot to THEM!) I also wanted this virus to be part of the main villain's master plan - making a race of super mutants from human stock by subjecting them to a vat of this refined viral agent."
  13. Scott Campbell, Origins of Fallout, No Mutants Allowed: "The nuclear Armageddon in the back-story was between the US and China. After shipping several people asked me why China and not the old standby, the Soviet Union. I made the choice when I remembered experiences with Oleg, a Moscow developer I worked with months before when I was assistant-producing a typing game. Once, in the middle of a phone conversation, I heard some muffled bangs, and the phone went quiet. When I asked him what the noise was, he replied, "Oh, it was just the Russian mob firing their guns in the street." I thought he was joking - he wasn't. After that, I had a really hard time believing that the once mighty USSR would be in a position to threaten the world any time soon. So I turned to the next major communist country that typifies "the East": China."
  14. Fallout 3 and Fallout 76
  15. Natalia's profile.
  16. Switchboard terminals#> 2067 Jun 19
  17. Fallout 4 Vault Dweller's Survival Guide Collector's Edition p.471-472: "[14.01] Massachusetts State House
    The “new” state house was completed in 1798 to house the government of Massachusetts State. The land selected was originally John Hancock’s cow pastures. The first dome was constructed of wooden shingles and covered in copper smelted by Paul Revere. The state government used this building continuously until the formation of the Thirteen Commonwealths in 1969.
    This is part of the Freedom Trail. The number “4” is daubed on the circular ground plaque pointing at the letter “L.” Outside, one corner of the structure has collapsed, allowing lock-fiddlers the chance to open a wall safe (Novice)."
    (Fallout 4 Vault Dweller's Survival Guide Map)
  18. Fallout Bible 8: "Leon [Leonard Boyarsky] said he used that flag because it looked cool and he didn't want to use a standard American flag with 50 stars. Eventually he planned to make up something about 13 super-states or something, but he never did."
  19. Tim Cain
  20. Fallout, Fallout 2, Fallout 3, Fallout New Vegas, Fallout 4, and Fallout 76 do not indicate this was the case.
  21. Fallout 3 loading screen.
  22. Fallout series overall.
  23. The words exist in the parlance of the universe and hold the same meaning, indicating these subcultures manifested in virtually identical ways.
  24. The Courier: "What preparations did you make to save Las Vegas?"
    Robert House: "On the day of the Great War, 77 atomic warheads targeted Las Vegas and its surrounding areas. My networked mainframes were able to predict and force-transmit disarm code subsets to 59 warheads, neutralizing them before impact. Laser cannons mounted on the roof of the Lucky 38 destroyed another 9 warheads. The rest got through, though none hit the city itself. A sub-optimal performance, admittedly. If only the Platinum Chip had arrived a day sooner..."
    (Robert House's dialogue)


  1. The Art of Fallout 4, p. 22: "BOSTON
    Much of modern-day Boston's skyline consists of buildings that were constructed well after Fallout's timeline diverged from our own. The taller structures that make the city recognizable are too contemporary in their designs. That gave us a blank slate to work with in terms of designing our version of a city of tomorrow. The older historical aspects of the city were retained for authenticity, but we wanted to layer them with some futuristic architecture, as this is a type of environment that hasn't been explored yet in the Fallout universe. As you can see in these early concepts, we explored some pretty far-out ideas for just how built up and evolved our version of Boston would be. We ended up with a more balanced approach—something that felt different but was still a grounded and relatable metropolis."
  2. Fallout Bible 6: "3. What was U.S./world history like before the timeline included in previous Fallout updates?"
    "No one has asked this yet, but I thought I would cut this question off at the pass. Fallout takes place on a future earth, in an alternate timeline. I will not be including any information on how and when it diverged - it will remain one of the mysteries of the setting. Just let it be known that it diverged after WW2, and leave it at that."
  3. Bethesda Softworks v Behaviour Interactive: "The FALLOUT franchise of video games draws gamers into alternate history, diverging from existing reality shortly following WWII. The various FALLOUT video games largely take place in the years following the destruction of the earth as people begin to emerge from their underground vaults into the nuclear wasteland."