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General information[]

Black Isle Studios' canceled Fallout 3 project, codenamed Van Buren, was to feature a highly modified version of the SPECIAL character system, made by J.E. Sawyer. Bethesda's version of SPECIAL in Fallout 3 is something of a combination of the original SPECIAL, the Van Buren SPECIAL, as well as their own changes.

Primary statistics[]

SPECIAL is an acronym of Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck. These were the seven basic attributes of every character in the game. They were used to determine the skills and available perks of the given character.

Primary statistic Description Derived statistics and effects Associated skills
Strength A measure of your raw physical strength. Carry Weight
Melee Damage
Melee Weapons
Perception How well you use your five senses and notice unusual things. - Mechanics
Endurance Your health and overall physical fitness. Healing rate, Hit Points Outdoorsman
Charisma Your overall attractiveness and likeability. - Barter
Intelligence Your basic intellect, curiosity in the world and adeptness at critical thinking. - Deception
Agility A combination of the character's reflexes, balance, and coordination Action Points
Luck A combination of fate, karma, and general good fortune. Critical Chance -

Derived statistics[]

Derived statistics were attributes of a character that were based on (or derived from) the character's primary statistics or attributes that the player could not influence directly.

The following derived statistics existed in Van Buren:


Main article: Van Buren skills

In Van Buren, there were 13 skills:

Combat skills[]

  • Firearms: Effects damage done with firearms, governed by Perception. Also known as Marksmanship, the armor is meant to replace and combine the classic Small Guns, Big Guns and Energy Weapons skills.[1]
  • Melee
  • Unarmed

Diplomacy skills[]

  • Barter
  • Persuasion: The Speech skill was divided into Deception and Persuasion.[2]
  • Deception: The Speech skill was divided into Deception and Persuasion.[3]

Science skills[]

Stealth skills[]

Skills started at 0, with Tag skills starting at 20. Point cost increases were to be steeper in order to make high skills more difficult to achieve.


Main article: Van Buren traits

The following traits were to be added or renamed:

  • Chem Resistant was renamed to Clean Living
  • One In a Million (added)
  • Red Scare (added)

Other traits were to be removed in comparison to previous games:

  • Bloody Mess
  • Heavy Handed
  • Jinxed
  • Sex Appeal


Main article: Van Buren perks

In Van Buren, perks were no longer tied to your character's level but depended solely on your character's statistics and skills. Only high-level characters would have high skills anyway, and powerful perks being dependent on very high skills would be more of an incentive to specialize in a given skill.

The concept that tended to run through all perks was that the developers were seeking to make perks that would allow players to actually play differently. "If a player can take a perk for their character and it makes them think differently about how they are playing, that seems more interesting to me than just jacking the skill value up."[citation needed] In addition, he was attempting to make more perks that were directly connected to having high non-combat skills, like Healer, in order to balance and flesh out the other dimensions of gameplay.

New perks[]

  • Advanced Research
  • Ayyyyyy!
  • Banzai
  • Body Snatcher
  • Bulk Trader
  • Eye on the Prize
  • In Your Face!
  • Junk Merchant
  • Mental Catalogue
  • Suicide King
  • Triage


  1. J.E. Sawyer: "I'm now more in favor of marksmanship than having two firearm skills. If Small Guns, Big Guns and Energy Weapons are combined into one, won't it make being a dedicated combat specialist too easy? A dedicated combat specialist in Fallout 1 or 2 could put all his or her skill points into one or two combat skills, too (Small Guns/Energy Weapons, for instance). Of course, since (with the exception of the beginning of Fallout 2) ammo grew on trees and fell out of the sky, Unarmed and Melee were only useful as amusing alternatives. That's why I keep talking about having lower amounts of ammo and fewer firearm-using opponents.
    (No Mutants Allowed)[clarification needed]
  2. Joshua Sawyer: "This skill is the other half of what Speech encompassed. It is used for friendly diplomacy, subtle manipulation, and outright intimidation. Also, as previously discussed, I believe it could be used to good effect for attempting to control CNPCs (companion NPCs) during combat. Though CNPCs would be computer-controlled by default, I believe that giving the high-Persuasion character a chance to control their followers is sensible and good for the purposes of expanding Persuasion's usefulness throughout the game. Some CNPCs are really agreeable, and some are belligerent jackasses who don't listen to anything. Some also go crazy when they see certain types of creatures or otherwise are annoyed by local behavior. A wounded CNPC can also be extremely difficult to control, as their life tends to take precedence over your desire to be a big winner. Persuasion can be used to offset a CNPC's tendencies to do exactly what they want, when they want. The higher the Persuasion, the more likely it is that the CNPC will allow the player to control them, even under duress."[clarification needed]
  3. Joshua Sawyer: "This skill is used in dialogue, but it is also used as a limited building skill as means to an "alternate" stealth route. As with Speech in Fallout, Deception is checked in dialogue along with stats. But Deception's dialogue options all take the form of bluffing, misleading, or otherwise flat out lying to the other person in the conversation. Deception can also be used to "sneak in plain sight" through the use of disguises. Disguises can be either found or created with a Disguise Kit. A disguise is a single item that a character wears, though it may occupy several equipped slots when necessary. Disguises may include things like: NCR Ranger Outfit, Hubologist Outfit, Viper Raider Outfit, etc. When a character uses a disguise, the character's effective reputation and identity become invisible. As far as AI is concerned, the character is part of that disguise's "team" as long as the NPC's PE doesn't see through the character's Deception skill (affected by range, lighting, etc.). Of course, for practical/gameplay purposes, a character's disguise does not hold up once he or she enters combat or attempts to initiate dialogue. And some disguises just don't work for some characters (no super mutants in BoS Scribe disguises, no humans in Night Kin disguises). Characters can also manufacture disguises from individual disguise elements through the use of a disguise kit. Placing all the elements of the intended disguise into the kit creates the disguise if the character's Deception skill is high enough. E.g.: Joe wants an NCR Ranger Outfit. This requires an NCR Ranger uniform, NCR Ranger boots, and an NCR Ranger pin (I love that pin). He finds the uniform on a dead Ranger, buys the boots at a surplus store, and trades for the pin with a group of unpleasant but businesslike raiders. Dump them in the kit and -- voila -- NCR Ranger Outfit.[clarification needed]