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Some call it the Phantom Death, 'cause that's what it is. You can't see it, you can't hear it, you can't even smell it. It basically builds up in your system. You never feel it until it's too late.Jake, Fallout

Radiation is a gameplay mechanic and story element throughout the Fallout series.

Background

Described as tasteless and odorless, radiation or the "phantom death" is a lingering danger present in the environment caused by the detonation of nuclear missiles and toxic waste.[1] Measured in units known as "rads" or "sieverts," sensors outside of vaults monitors for changes in the radiation levels as a prerequisite for entry or exit and the results of sensors placed inside are announced to inhabitants.[2][3][4]

Comprised of Gamma rays, living creatures that absorb too much of these ionizing rays may experience blood pooling in the gums, nausea, vomiting, anemia, diarrhea, and fatigue.[5] Symptoms may also include loss of hair, teeth, and skin.[6] In serious cases of radiation sickness and poisoning, living creatures will suffer from gastrointestinal bleeding, violent hemorrhaging, and death, but some life forms have adapted to the radiation in the environment.[7][8]

Medical treatment to alleviate damage by radiation includes care provided by Auto-Doc, Sympto-matic, makeshift archways, inoculations, decontamination arches, and system flushes.[9] Radiation levels are measured with Geiger counters built into Pip-Boys as well as Wattz Electronics C-Radz Geiger counters.[10][11][12] Radiation suits are utilized to mitigate the effects of exposure, with varying efficacy.[13]

FO76 081120 Radstorm fin 2.png

Radiation also affects weather systems, producing radstorms. These storms are weather phenomena that occur throughout the Commonwealth and in Appalachia. Radstorms result in green overcast skies and audible winds. Over the course of the storm, lightning periodically flashes and causes a brief spike of radiation in the area, inflicting 5 rads per lightning flash.[14][15] Radstorms are capable of producing vortexes that are strong enough to lift people off the ground.[16][17]

Centuries after the Great War, some areas such as the Glow and the Glowing Sea, are still highly irradiated. Radioactive hotspots appear near places that were struck directly by nuclear weapons,[18] and regions varied in how long radiation persisted, ranging from clearing shortly after the war to remaining hundreds of years later.[19][10] Some groups have developed religious followings revolving around radiation, such as the Children of Atom.

Mutations

Exposure to background radiation can also lead to mutations at a genetic level.[20][21] It can also lead to sterility.[22][23] Radiation also causes mutations in creatures, leading to the emergence of large versions of pre-War species such as radscorpions, geckos, spore plants, and brahmin.[24][25] Radiation can also cause some humans to turn into ghouls or feral ghouls, immune to the negative effects of radiation.[26] Some emit radiation and have no body heat.[27]

Highly irradiated locations

Name Level Game
The Glow NA Fallout
Toxic waste dump NA Fallout 2
Gecko's nuclear power plant NA Fallout 2
Vault 87 Up to 3933 rads/second Fallout 3
The Pitt river Up to 2,665 rads/second Fallout 3
Camp Searchlight 28 rads/second New Vegas
The Devil's Throat 6 rads/second New Vegas
Old nuclear test site 20 rads/second New Vegas
Long 15 20 rads/second New Vegas
Dry Wells 250 rads/second New Vegas
The Courier's Mile 25 rads/second New Vegas
Glowing Sea 300 rads/second Fallout 4
County crossing reactors 57 rads/second Fallout 4
Swan's Pond shed/gazebo 40/70 rads/second Fallout 4
Mass Fusion building 153 rads/second Fallout 4
Hugo's Hole 60 rads/second Fallout 4
Mass Fusion containment shed 67 rads/second Fallout 4
Institute reactor 90 rads/second Fallout 4
Blast zone - Fallout 76
Emmett Mountain disposal site - Fallout 76
Crater near monorail elevator - Fallout 76
Federal Disposal Field HZ-21 - Fallout 76
Fissure sites - Fallout 76

In-game effects

Fallout, Fallout 2, Fallout Tactics
Rads Message HR HP¹ ST PE EN CH IN AG
0-149 very nauseous
150-299 slightly fatigued -1
300-449 vomiting does not stop -3 -1 -1
450-599 hair is falling out -5 -5 -2 -1 -2
600-999 skin is falling off -10 -15 -4 -3 -3 -3 -1 -5
1000+ intense agony -10 -20 -6 -5 -5 -5 -3 -6
¹ Current Hit Points

The character has a hidden radiation ("Rad") count that can be checked with a Geiger counter. This rad count causes the effect of "radiated" to appear. As the count increases, further radiation poisoning occurs. Merely being "radiated" incurs no penalty. If the rad count gets high enough, SPECIAL stats begin to drop, and if any of these drop to zero due to poisoning, the character dies. Also, should the character survive to maximum irradiation (1000 rads) (as in their stats do not reach zero), the character has 24 hours to use enough RadAway to get themselves below 1000 rads or they will die. Radiation can be healed by RadAway and Rad-X and Vault City Inoculations can modify Radiation Resistance.

Fallout 3
Rads Level Effect
0-199 No Effect
200-399 Minor Radiation Poisoning -1 END
400-599 Advanced Radiation Poisoning -2 END, -1 AGL
600-799 Critical Radiation Poisoning -3 END, -2 AGL, -1 STR
800-999 Deadly Radiation Poisoning -3 END, -2 AGL, -2 STR
1000+ Fatal Radiation Poisoning DEATH (HP: -10,000)

Eating and drinking most food items or entering an irradiated zone gives the Lone Wanderer rads. S.P.E.C.I.A.L. attributes drop at certain thresholds, and radiation poisoning kills the Wanderer at 1000 rads. Radiation does not directly affect hit points, through penalties affecting Endurance, Maximum Health may be lowered.

The Pip-Boy 3000's dosimeter will appear in the upper right during exposure. There are five major ticks (200, 400, 600, 800, and 1000 rads), with minor ticks at multiples of 66.67, e.g., 67, 133, 200, 267, 333, 400, etc. The rad status can also be checked in the Pip-Boy to see rad resistance and rad level. There is also a dial in the upper-left of the Pip-Boy that shows the approximate radiation level.

Rad exposure is usually limited; only very rarely will zones be so irradiated that venturing into them results in a quick death. One needs to stand in +1 rad water for a significant time and more generally it is possible to move through radioactive water dozens of times before reaching the 200 rad threshold. Rads can be flushed by:

Radiation can be resisted by equipping certain types of apparel, such as radiation suits or power armor. A dose of the chem Rad-X also grants the player character radiation resistance based on their Medicine skill, but the effects do not stack. This resistance is applied to all sources of radiation, from the external environment to irradiated consumables.

The Lead Belly perk halves the rads taken from any irradiated water drank while the Rad Resistance and Cyborg perks raise the overall radiation resistance. Also, if completed the 'contract radiation sickness' part of Wasteland Survival Guide with a reading of 600 rads or more (the optional objective), the Rad Regeneration perk is given.

All non-player characters are immune to radiation. This explains why non-player characters like Confessor Cromwell (who stand in irradiated water at almost all times) do not die from radiation poisoning. Certain enemies, such as glowing ones or centaurs, have radiation-based attacks that can give the player character rads. Nearly any puddle of filth-infested liquid will contain at least some rads per second, while most of these similar puddles in Fallout: New Vegas do not contain any rads at all.

Accessing the Pip-Boy to eat or drink anything that will make the rad level cross the 1001-Rad death threshold will trigger a notification that will mention being affected by "fatal rad poisoning." At this instant, it will not kill but exiting the Pip-Boy without using any item that would lower the radiation below 1001 will be instantly fatal.

The add-on The Pitt introduces the most irradiated food item in the game, Slop, having 25 rads per serving. Eating 40 servings of Slop, without some form of rad-cleansing in-between meals, is lethal to the consumer.

Fallout: New Vegas

Fallout: New Vegas uses the same radiation mechanics as Fallout 3, keeping some perks, such as Lead Belly, Rad Resistance and Rad Absorption, while adding two new perks, Rad Child and Atomic. Ways to remove radiation poisoning include:

Fallout 4

Radiation decreases max health as radiation poisoning rises. The rate is 1% of HP per 10 rads; this means that 1000 is still the fatal level as in previous games. In addition,

Fallout 4 features radiation damage as a damage type that can appear on weapons. This is actually composed of two different types of radiation damage, one of which will be referred to here as "poisoning" and the other as "damage" for clarity.

Radiation poisoning is the more common type; for example, it is the effect on all "irradiated" legendary weapon prefixes and the gamma gun. This functions exactly like environmental radiation in Fallout 4: 10 points of radiation poisoning will reduce max health by 1%. This gets reflected as actual damage, even if a character is at full health. Since this directly affects maximum health, this is damage that can't be healed. Even legendary enemy mutations or the resethealth console command will restore health only up to any limits from radiation poisoning.

Health loss from radiation poisoning as well as the radiation poisoning itself is unaffected by difficulty settings. This has the side effect that radiation damage on weapons becomes much more useful on Very Hard or Survival (since normally weapons will only do half damage, but health loss from radiation and the radiation poisoning itself is still at full effect) and less useful on Very Easy (since the base damage of a weapon will likely dwarf whatever the radiation poisoning can do). Radiation poisoning is not influenced by damage bonuses (such as from taking Psycho). Only Nuclear Physicist appears to increase radiation poisoning.

The game distinguishes between the radiation immunity super mutants have and the resistance feral ghouls have. Some weapons do pure radiation damage that ignores radiation immunity. These weapons are still affected by radiation resistance, so they will do more damage to an "immune" target than one with high resistance. Groups such as the Children of Atom have weaponized radiation to create traps and even handheld weapons ranging from improvised pistols to automatic rifles and grenades.

Pure radiation damage is rare. For example, Lorenzo's Artifact has a radiation damage component that does pure damage. It never will inflict radiation poisoning on the enemy. Ways to remove radiation poisoning:

Fallout 76
Main article: Fallout 76 mutations

The mutation system results in the more irradiated the player character is, the higher chance they have of getting a mutation.

Fallout: The Roleplaying Game

Similar to Fallout 4's radiation mechanics, radiation damage in Fallout: The Roleplaying Game decreases the total maximum HP pool of the character when they have taken radiation damage. If a character's maximum HP is reduced below their current HP total, then their current HP is reduced as well. Radiation damage also cannot heal naturally and does not reduce over time.

Reaching 0 HP with radiation damage means the character is dying from radiation poisoning and cannot be stabilized until radiation damage is removed. RadAway (or another chem that reduces radiation damage) must be applied using the First Aid action first before anything else can be done. Food items or beverages that reduce radiation damage cannot be applied using First Aid.

Radiation damage inflicted by weapons can be reduced by locational radiation damage resistance. For environmental radiation damage that would affect the whole body, the lowest locational radiation DR is used to reduce the damage. Radiation damage inflicted by food or drink cannot be reduced by location DR. If a weapon applies radiation damage and another type of damage (such as with the Radioactive damage effect), resolve the other type of damage first and then resolve radiation damage. All human origins start with 0 radiation DR and some origins, such as super mutants, ghouls, and robots, are completely immune to radiation damage. Ghouls are also uniquely healed by radiation damage.

Ways to prevent/remove radiation poisoning include:

  • Aquagirl/Aquaboy: Rank 1 prevents radiation damage from irradiated water.
  • Lead Belly: Rank 1 re-rolls radiation damage from ingested food and water. Rank 2 prevents radiation damage entirely.
  • Rad Resistance: +1 Radiation DR to all hit locations per rank.
  • Solar Powered: Removes 1 point of radiation damage for every hour spent in the sun.
  • Astoundingly Awesome Tales - Giant Insects Invade!: +2 Radiation DR
  • Baked Bloatfly: +2 Radiation DR
  • Brahmin milk: Heals 2 radiation damage
  • Glowing Blood Pack: +5 Radiation DR
  • Mutant Hound Chops: Heals 2 radiation damage
  • Rad-X: +6 Radiation DR
  • Rad-X (diluted): +3 Radiation DR
  • RadAway: Heals 4 radiation dmage
  • RadAway (diluted): Heals 2 radiation damage
  • Refreshing Beverage: Heal 10 radiation damage
  • Vegetable soup: +2 Radiation DR until end of scene
  • Armor mods (Treated, Resistant, Protective, Shielded) offer increasing Radiation DR.
Fallout Shelter

Dwellers automatically accumulate radiation over time if the player character's water supply dips low or if they are exploring the wasteland/questing, and will do so until their water is replenished or they return from the wasteland/a quest. Being attacked by radscorpions and ghouls will also inflict radiation damage. RadAway will remove all radiation from the player character instantly, while a steady supply of clean water will reduce it over time.

Radiation is represented as a red bar on one's HP bar, going from right to left. Radiation damage cannot be healed by normal methods of HP recovery, but cannot kill a player character, and thus acts as a limiting factor to their max HP until healed.

Fallout: The Board Game

When passing through a radioactive zone, or being attacked by an enemy with a radiation attack, the players can obtain rads, except for The Ghoul who instead heals HP equal to Rad damage. The Super Mutant works differently also, as he gains 1 XP per point of radiation he takes, but still takes the rad damage. When a player's Rad's damage is higher than the player's current HP, the player is dead. Radioactive zones deal 1 Rad damage upon entering the space, and enemies with radioactive damage will deal rad damage times their level.

Appearances

Radiation appears in all Fallout games.

Behind the scenes

According to Wikipedia, radiation in-game is greatly intensified when compared to the real world, as a fatal dose amounts to several tens of thousands of rads.

References

  1. Jake: "Some call it the Phantom Death, 'cause that's what it is. You can't see it, you can't hear it, you can't even smell it. It basically builds up in your system. You never feel it until it's too late."
    (HUBJAKE.MSG)
  2. Vault 101 PA System: "Current radiation level - 0 rads, as always."
  3. Nick Valentine: "Unless you're looking to suck down some sieverts, I recommend we move out."
    (Nick Valentine's dialogue)
  4. Vault 94 terminal entries; reception desk terminal, security log - 10/23/77
  5. Fallout and Fallout 2 radiation poisoning descriptions: "{1000}{}{You feel very nauseous.}"
    "{1001}{}{You feel very nauseous, and after some mild vomiting, slightly fatigued.}"
    "{1002}{}{You are very fatigued, the vomiting does not stop, and your recovery time is impaired.}"
    "{1003}{}{You are hemorrhaging violently. You are very sick, and your hair is falling out.}"
    "{1004}{}{You are hemorrhaging violently and continuously. The vomitus is stained red from your blood. Your skin is falling off of your bones.}"
    "{1005}{}{There is bleeding from your intestines and you have severe diarrhea. You feel bloated and are in intense agony.}"
    "{1006}{}{You have died from radiation sickness.}"
    (MISC.MSG (Fallout) and MISC.MSG (Fallout 2))
  6. Generic doctors in Fallout 4: "{seeing signs of radiation sickness} Blood pooling in the gums. Signs of anemia. Yeah. We better clean you up."
    (DialogueGenericDoctors.txt)
  7. Sole Survivor: "Sure. Sounds fun."
    Duff: "Yes! Love that enthusiasm. Now we all talk about radiation like it's a single thing, but it's actually a term referring to dozens of different ionizing rays. You have X-Rays, Beta Rays, Gamma Rays... But which one are we most worried about? The one most associated with the big, old bombs 200 years ago?"
    The Sole Survivor: "Gamma rays?"
    Duff: "That's right! Now. Gamma rays are bad. Really bad. If your body absorbs too much of that kind of radiation, you'll suffer from fatigue, anemia, even death. But some life forms have been living with Gamma radiation exposure for two centuries now, and they've adapted. Neat, huh?"
    (Duff's dialogue)
  8. Loxley: "{1112}{LOX_78}{About three years ago, one of the merchants went way down south looking for other towns. He came back all hair and teeth falling out, babbling about some huge span of radiation. Who knows, maybe something special down there before the war.}"
    (Loxley's dialogue)
  9. Vault City Inoculations
  10. 10.0 10.1 Vault Dweller: "{125}{}{What would I need a Geiger counter for?}"
    Jake: "{127}{}{What do you need a Gieger counter for!? [Laughs] Though it's been 80 years or so since the bombs fell, there's still radiation around, you goof. You can't see it, never could, but it's there. Heck I'm willin' to bet you got some counts on you now. Everyone that lives in the wastes has a few RAD counts.}"
    (HUBJAKE.MSG)
  11. Fallout and Fallout 2 item description: "{5200}{}{Geiger Counter}"
    "{5201}{}{A Wattz Electronics C-Radz model Geiger Counter. Detects the presence and strength of radiation fields.}"
    (PRO ITEM.MSG (Fallout), PRO ITEM.MSG (Fallout 2))
  12. Generic doctors in Fallout 4: "{seeing signs of radiation sickness} All right. Let's flush your system."
    (DialogueGenericDoctors.txt)
  13. Mr. RADical's journal
  14. Fallout 76 storm record: 001C5E7B
  15. Fallout 4 loading screens: "The Commonwealth is occasionally plagued by radiation storms that blow in from the Glowing Sea, far to the southwest."
  16. Employee tunnels terminal entries; Refugee terminal, Radiation Storms
  17. Employee tunnels terminal entries; Pump control system, Why is this happening
  18. Tycho: "{154}{}{Watch out for radioactive hot spots. This place obviously sustained a direct nuclear strike, and secondary cascade radiation may be bad. I'd recommend avoiding this place completely if we can.}"
    (Tycho's dialogue)
  19. Randall Clark terminal entries; Fallen Rock cave terminal; Year 2078
  20. The Chosen One: "You're so damn sure of yourself, aren't you?"
    Charles Curling: "{153}{}{Shouldn't I be? Our research on the villagers clearly shows changes to their DNA. It's a natural result of all the background radiation.}"
    (QCCURLNG.MSG)
  21. Fallout 2 endings: "Over the next few years, the background radiation from Gecko's power plant began to cause mutations in the Vault City population, forcing the Citizens to relocate to NCR."
  22. The Chosen One: "{252}{}{You know, background radiation might be resulting in sterility or even worse, chromosomal damage. Might be worth checking out.}"
    Phyllis: "{255}{}{You know, I was thinking the same thing. Maybe I should mention it to Dr. Troy. He's been too busy to look into it recently, but the next pregnancy cycle IS coming up, so...}"
    The Chosen One: "{257}{}{Mentioning it to Dr. Troy would be a good idea. Good luck.}"
    (Vcnancy.msg)
  23. Myron: "{411}{}{I need some Rad-away before the radiation eats my Gnads-away.}"
    (NhMyron.msg)
  24. Brahmin creature description: "{101}{}{The brahmin's extra head is probably the result of a regular cow being exposed too soon to radiation.}"
    (ACBrahmn.msg)
  25. Vault Dweller: "{145}{}{What do you know about Radscorpions?}"
    Razlo: "{153}{}{Not too much. They seem to be extremely large versions of the north American Emperor scorpion. Contrary to my medical knowledge, their poison has grown more potent, not diluted, as I would expect. Seth has been hunting them, which helps some of my tests.}"
    Razlo: "{154}{}{And how such a large creature can even be possible by natural evolution, or even radiation induced mutation is beyond me.}"
    (Razlo's dialogue)
  26. The Chosen One: "Tell me about this place."
    Wooz: "Not much to tell, really. Just a bunch of ghouls clinging tenaciously to the ass-end of life."
    The Chosen One: "No, I meant tell me about this bar."
    Wooz: "Well, the Harp’s named after a favorite hangout that I used to have before the war. I guess it’s just a reminder of times past. Sort of a joke on the only way we’re going to get a better deal, too."
    The Chosen One: "Before the war? But that was a long time ago."
    Wooz: "It sure was a long time ago. How do you think ghouls are made? You think some of us just got up one fine day and said to ourselves: "Gee, I wonder what it’d be like to have my flesh rotting off my fucking body?""
    The Chosen One: "Well, no, I didn’t. Say, how do you make a ghoul?"
    Wooz: "With silver-bells and cockleshells and… Boy, you are dumb, aren’t you? Severe radiation. That’s how. How do you think? You know, many bombs go boom, flash of light and heat, flesh burns off, but you don’t-quite-die-type severe radiation?"
    The Chosen One: "Uh well, I mean…"
    Wooz: "Well, I didn’t think so. Fuck you very much for bringing back all those intensely painful memories. Asshole. We’re a town of fucking leftovers -— slightly overcooked leftovers."
    The Chosen One: "I prefer medium-rare myself. Hey, let me ask you something else."
    (Wooz's dialogue)
  27. Lone Wanderer: "Can you tell me more about these unidentified persons?"
    M.A.R.Go.T.: "My apologies. My sensing equipment in that area must be damaged. My equipment indicates the persons possess no internal body heat and are emitting lethal levels of radiation."
    (M.A.R.Go.T.'s dialogue)
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