How to Play Fallout 1

Getting into Fallout, the first game that is, is not easy. Unless you're reading an online guide or watching someone play, you'll get lost very quickly. Here are some Fallout 1 tips to get you up and running with this classic. Learn how to create your character, how to use the interface, your inventory, and much, much more. Welcome to How to play Fallout 1!

how to play fallout 1

It's important to acknowledge the fact that Fallout 1 came out in 1997 and because it's such an old game, you might hate it, at first. Bear with me tho! You only need someone to explain how things work. Besides, I think it's important to play the first two Fallout games for the story and the exceptionally good RPG elements. Contrary to the popular belief, Fallout didn't start with Fallout 3 nor did it start with Bethesda. Yes, really. Would you like to know more?

Fallout 1 Tips to Get you Started

Here's what you'll learn in the next paragraphs:
  1. how to make a character
  2. how to set up your game
  3. which skills should you choose
  4. switching between weapons
  5. how to reload your gun
  6. accessing your inventory
  7. what the hell is AP?!
  8. ending combat and your turn
  9. using the items in your inventory
  10. navigate on the world map
  11. talking to NPCs
  12. how to open doors and use items
  13. stuff to do early in the game
  14. are there any hotkeys?
  15. tips and recommended perks

I tried my best to keep this guide short and only shared what I thought it's relevant to get you started so please make sure you go through the entire article. I appreciate your visit.

How to Play Fallout 1 > Creating your Character

Before you do anything, I recommend you watch the cool intro. Don't skip it as it will set the mood for the game. Should you miss it, no worries. Click on the Intro button and you're good to go. Second, play a character YOU think will be fun to play with and whatever you do, DO NOT, I repeat, do not read other guides! The article you're reading now is more than enough to get you started. The classic Fallout games are designed to have multiple solutions for each problem you encounter and have fairly good replayability. I don't know about you, but figuring out things by myself is A LOT more fun. Also, don't rush through the game world. There's so much to see and so many NPCs (little people in the game) to talk to!

fallout 1 creating character

Here's what I do every time I make a new character in Fallout 1. First, I focus on Agility because it gives me more AP per round. Intelligence is also important to me because I like talking to people and I want more skill points per level up. For Strength, 6 is more than enough. I'll only add more if I'm planning to play a melee character. However, I'll let you in a little secret: when you find the Power Armor your Strength will increase by 3 points.

I usually invest in Agility for AP and Perception so my character can shoot further. With 8 PE and AG, I can get the 'Sniper' perk at level 18 which will upgrade all my ranged hits to critical damage! Oh, and you will need at least 6 points on Luck to find the best weapon in Fallout 1. A word to the wise: don't lower any stat below 4 unless you're prepared for a frustrating experience. Also, keep in mind that you can boost each stat by 1 at the Brotherhood of Steel bunker, but it won't be cheap. I also make sure to take 'Gifted' every game, a trait which gives me +1 to all main stats, a small starting penalty to my skills (-10%), and 5 fewer skill points per level. But trust me, this is more than worth it.

TIP: You may save your character for later use by going to OPTIONS on the bottom.


My recommendation is for you to invest in Small Guns early on and in Energy Weapons ONLY at the end when you have plenty of ammo for them. Although small guns will get you through most of the game and they do kick-ass in the beginning, energy weapons are a must for the final encounter. Just like Intelligence, I consider Speech important in Fallout 1, so I make sure to invest a good amount of points in it. Another important skill is Lockpick. You'll want to increase it whenever possible to open as many doors and lockers as you can without being forced to return to them at a later time.

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How to Play Fallout 1 > Game Settings

If you're done with creating your character, let's have a look at the game settings for this How to play Fallout 1 guide, shall we? After leaving Vault 13, click the button that has a small circle on it, under the INV button. Now go to Preferences and change these settings:

  1. Running to Always (but if you ever plan to sneak you'll need to switch this back!)
  2. Subtitles to On (you'll miss a lot of stuff during the game if you don't)
  3. Combat Speed to Fastest (very important or the game would be painfully slow)
  4. Check the box that says, "Affects player speed"
  5. Change Text Delay to Slow
  6. Adjust the sound options to your liking.
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How to Play Fallout 1 > UI, Movement & Combat

The game has two movement modes: real-time and turn-based. The first is used when running around like a noob (just kidding!) and talking to people. As soon as you enter combat, the turn-based mode is used. You can enter combat mode at any time tho, just by clicking once on the rectangle that says UNARMED at the bottom of the screen. Once you've done that, your character is ready to punch someone. Or some--thing.

However, you'll have to equip a weapon if you want to use one. Otherwise, you'll just punch and kick people. Which could still be fun if you have a high Strength and Agility. The more Strength you have, the more damage your fists and kicks will do. The more Agility, the less you'll miss. Don't make my mistake tho: ignore Agility and you'll be in a world of pain!

fallout 1 inventory

How do you arm yourself, you ask? First, click on the small INV button on the interface, then click and drag the 10mm pistol from your inventory into ITEM1 box and release. Click and drag the knife over ITEM2 box and release it. Notice their damage on the right side of the screen... Once both weapons are in place, click DONE. You are now armed and dangerous! Well, at least you'll have something to face those damn rad rats. Punching them is not advisable for a character that doesn't have a high Strength and Agility.

As soon as you exit Vault 13 you'll notice a body right at the entrance. That's Ed. Ed wasn't so lucky and he checked out early, so to speak. Lucky for us, we can loot his corpse. To do this, right-click anywhere on the map to turn the mouse cursor into an arrow, and then left-click on the body to see what the poor bastard had on him. Click and drag each item from the right (Ed's inventory) to the left (your inventory) and then release it. After that, click DONE.

how to play fallout 1 vault 13

Accessing your inventory in combat (aka pressing the INV button, or the key i) will cost you some AP. Action Points are used to move around, fire a gun, reload, or perform any action in combat. They're influenced by your Agility. If you start with say, 5 AG, you will have 7 Action Points to use when fighting. As you will soon notice, different weapons (or actions) require different AP (for example, a pistol might require 5 AP, while a punch only 2 AP). Learning how to manage your AP could mean the difference between victory or defeat. Trust me, I'm teaching you how to play Fallout 1, ain't I?

You can switch weapons to conserve ammo or if you think you've got a better chance to hit your target with something else. How you do that, you ask? Simple! Click the red round button over the INV button. Alternatively, you can press B on your keyboard.

TIP: Use the extra AP you haven't used to run away from your enemies so that it will take longer for them to reach you. How do you move, you ask? Right-click anywhere to turn your cursor into a red grid icon and then left-click where you want to go.


To end your turn and allow enemies to do some things as well, press SPACE once. It's also good to know that combat will end automatically if no hostile creatures are nearby and you exhausted your AP. To target enemies when in combat, first right-click to change your cursor into a red target and then move the cursor over an enemy. You will see your chance to hit in percentage. The closer the enemy, the bigger your chances are. However, if your Agility sucks, so will your aim. I warned you! OK, let's test this. Target the rat that's closest to you but don't shoot yet! Notice your chance to hit him. If it's too small, move closer. OK, now shoot. Oh, you missed? Well, you should know that in Fallout 1 you will miss a lot. Even with a 95% chance to hit (which is maximum), you can still miss. Get used to it!

fallout 1 how to open inventory

To check out any item in your inventory, click the INV button again. Now, right-click anywhere for the cursor to turn into binoculars, and then left-click on an item to learn more about it. To use an item, first left-click on it, hold and scroll to the *first* hand icon. Didn't worked? The mouse cursor must be in binoculars mode, try again. By the way, the *second* hand is used to drop items to the ground.

TIP: To see how many HP (Hit Points) your character has, click on the CHA button on the bottom right. While there, you can also check your stats, skills, perks, etc.


FYI your weapons need ammo. Ammo is displayed to the right side of each ITEM BOX as tiny green, vertical lines on the bottom interface. When you run out of ammo you'll hear a clicking sound. To reload your pistol, right-click inside the ITEM BOX until RELOAD text appears, and then left-click once. It's that simple. However, please keep in mind that reload uses AP when in combat. If you don't have enough Action Points left, either move away or press SPACE to end your turn. Except for Reload, the ITEM BOX has another option, VATS, which we will discuss later when we get to the Fallout 1 tips section.

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How to Play Fallout 1 > Leaving Vault 13

To exit the cave (literally your first quest), head west until you see the sunlight, for the first time in your life I might add. Before you do that tho, I strongly recommend you 'clear' the cave, as each rad rat will give you 25 exp. points for a total of 500 XP (experience).

Exit areas have either brown (goes to world map) or green (same city) overlays. You may click on the brown overlay to get to the outside world. To move around the map, simply left-click anywhere. You'll notice time will pass by as you move in the world. Your character will also heal as he/she travels. I advise you not to waste your time wandering on the map. You have 150 days to get that new water chip or everyone in your vault dies.

how to play fallout 1 vault guide

TIP: You can go back into the vault as soon as you exit the cave. There are some quests in there that will give your character some early XP. Move a little on the world map then click into the green circle and click on the triangle that says 'Vault 13'. Next, you'll see a couple of sections of the vault where you can magically 'teleport' to. Click on "Command Center" and make your way out of the bunker from there. Make sure to chat with all vault dwellers to get information about the vault you grew up in and some quests.


"How do I talk to someone?" C'mon lad, don't you know anything?! Oh, wait, I forgot. You're here because you don't. Sorry, my bad! Right... So, right-click anywhere on the screen until your cursor turns into an arrow. Then place the cursor over an NPC (little man) and notice the info inside the bottom left window. e.g. "You see the water guard." Talk to that NPC by left-clicking on it. Your character will run towards it and then a dialogue window will pop up when close enough. Ask him if you can take some supplies and then click [Done].

fallout 1 talking to people

To open the door behind the water guard, simply click on it. Move your character inside the room. To pick up items in Fallout 1, first right-click to change the cursor into an arrow, then left-click on the item. Now, try it on a locker. You will find 40 water flasks! Now, don't be greedy, take some, and leave the rest to your vault buddies. When you drag the water flasks to your inventory (left), you will be asked how many? Click the + button or type 10, then click DONE. Click DONE again to close the window (I just press Escape). Now go check out the other lockers. Note: sometimes items are hidden behind walls and you can't see them. Take a good look around every room you enter or you might miss an important item!

TIP: You can search faster if you don't have anything in your hand. I suggest you keep the pistol in one hand and switch to the empty hand with the key B when looting.


Feel free to talk with the other 'citizens' of your vault. If someone asks you to put your weapon away, do it, or they might not talk to you. To put a weapon (or item) away, click the INV button, the click & drag it back to your inventory. Some doors will be locked, but you can get past that. To lockpick a door, click on the red round button above the MAP button (bottom right). Click on the LOCKPICK button and then click on the locked door. Even easier, press 2 and then click on the door. Here you can see all Fallout 1 hotkeys.

fallout 1 how to lockpick

Depending on how high a skill is (percentage), you will have more success using that skill. Important! If someone asks you to stop messing with a door, STOP! If you push it, the NPC (often the entire town, or vault in our case), might turn hostile towards you. This is why it's important to save your game often. To save a game, click on the button with a circle under INV, then on SAVE GAME, choose a slot and add a description. Make sure you use ALL your Save slots! Fallout 1 can be such an unforgiven game at times, you'd hate to get stuck.

Use your SKILLDEX whenever necessary. You can heal yourself or others. You can steal items (although I only recommend it if you have a high enough skill), you can repair or use science on objects. For example, if you go to the Library, when you check the computers they will say you could get more information with a "more scientific approach." If your Science skill is at least 30% you'll get some extra info, which is nice. Two computers there will give you 700 XP (!) for learning new things. Look around, experiment with your skills.

Access the vault's elevator like you would any normal door. Select level 2 to go to it. If people say it's late, wait until the morning and get back to them. How to wait: first, press the PIP button (bottom right), click the small bell button on top (after the date), and choose to rest until morning. Notes: You can only wait in safe areas. Waiting will heal you.

TIP: The corridor before the vault door has a wall panel with 2 flares inside.

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How to Play Fallout 1 >> Start your Adventure

Allies are extremely helpful at the beginning of the game, so I recommend you get Ian to join you ASAP. When you're done with Vault 13 and you went back to the world map, click on the Vault 15 button on the right. On your way to there, you will pass through another green circle marked 'Unknown'. Stop moving and click on it. Welcome to Shady Sands! Should you arrive at night, click on the PIP button and then rest until noon. There are more options there, one of them being "Rest until healed", which is very useful when you don't have any Stimpaks left, but it's time-consuming, so don't use it too often!

fallout 1 map navigation

Put your weapon away or the woman at the gate won't talk to you. Chat with Katrina for 250 XP. Make sure you go through all dialogue lines. Find Ian in the house immediately to the right. You can recruit him for 100 caps OR convince him to join you for free IF you have at least Intelligence 6, by offering him "a piece of the action". Heck yeah! If your Intelligence is not high enough, use the Mentats you (hopefully) got from Vault 13 to temporarily boost it.

TIP: If you can't convince Ian, just give him the money and steal it afterward, lol.


You may trade with people by clicking on the round BARTER button when you talk to them. Bartering is very simple: you offer something, they offer something (your offer must be equal or higher than what they're offering). Try it with the first guy you meet by offering him one of your flares in exchange for money. Click OFFER when you're happy with your trade and then click the TALK button again. Trade some of your water flasks with Ian for his bullets when you talk to him. Also, make sure you ask him about the Hub and Junktown so they will appear on the world map.

fallout 1 bartering

TIP: Bartering is influenced by your Barter skill (press the CHA button). The higher, the more you'll get when you trade, which also means lower prices when you buy.


Search all the bookcases in town except for the one in the doctor's house -- they don't like thieves. And be sure to get a rope! You'll need it in Vault 15. Talk to the town folks to get quests for some nice XP. Read any book you find and kill the radscorpions.

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Where is the Rope in Shady Sands?

There are two places where can you find a rope in Shady Sands. The first is in a bookshelf in one of the buildings near the... ahem... two-headed cows (they're called brahmin), and the other is inside the hut south, next to where plants are growing. It's hard to spot cause it's on the ground, so make sure you take a good look. There's also a sledgehammer in there.

where is the rope in shady sands

After you're done with the peasants, continue your journey to Vault 15. Once you've reached the vault, go down the hole inside the wooden shed. When you reach the elevator shaft, click and hold the mouse button down. Scroll until you reach the bag (your inventory), and from there choose a rope. Alternatively, you can drag the rope in your ITEM1 BOX, close the window, click on the rope on the bottom and then click on the elevator shaft.

You'll need another rope to go even deeper the rabbit hole, but you'll find one in a locker on level 2 (unless you brought both ropes from Shady Sands). Don't miss the hunting rifle on one of the bathroom floors! Easily the most helpful free item early in the game. That's it! I'll leave the rest to you... There are so many things that you can do differently every time you play the game! But the purpose of this guide is to only teach you how to play Fallout 1.

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Fallout 1 Recommended Perks

These are the perks I take almost every playthrough and which I would recommend.

fallout 1 recommended perks
  1. Awareness: Shows HP, equipped weapon, and ammo of targets (I find it very useful).
  2. More Criticals: +50% more damage to critical hits is also a must for me.

  3. Quick Pockets: A must-have. With each level of this perk, the AP cost to access your inventory decreases by 1!

  4. Toughness: Gives 10% damage resistance with each level and it stacks with your armor! Having a 30% DR I just watch and laugh at raiders' futile attempts to do even 1 HP worth of damage to my character.

  5. Bonus Ranged Damage: Take this ONLY if you like using Miniguns a lot, to get double the damage. Personally, I like the minigun sound, but I enjoy Plasma Rifles more.
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Fallout 1 Perks to Avoid

These are the perks to avoid when playing Fallout 1, in my opinion.

  1. Swift Learner: Useless because of the level cap; there are much better perks you can take.
  2. Smooth Talker: There are plenty of ways to increase Intelligence during the game.
  3. Lifegiver: After level 12, your maximum number of hit points won't matter as much.

  4. Night Vision: The screen is too dark anyway + very few people would talk to you at night + you should rest at night if you want to keep it real (there be monsters out there).

  5. Kamikaze: I don't know about you, but trading away defense for Sequence, which only matters during the first round of combat is a big no for me.

  6. Bloody Mess: After a while, it gets VERY boring to always see people die in horrible ways. I think it's more rewarding when it occasionally happens.

  7. Pickpocket: Well, unless you're playing a thief character, but if you fail at stealing, won't you just load the game?

Other perks to avoid in Fallout 1: Chem Reliant, Chem Resistant, Fortune Finder (plenty of caps in the game as it is), Mysterious Stranger, Scout, Ranger, Scrounger (double ammo from encounters), Survivalist (get 2 HP less damage from encounters, lol), Empathy (colored dialogue text), Cult of Personality (breaks the immersion; if you're bad, you should be bad).

Also, any perk that gives you skill points (Master Thief, Medic, Mr. Fixit, Speaker, etc.). You don't need more skill points, you need perks.

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Fallout 1 Hotkeys

There's a couple of hotkeys that can make your life a lot easier in Fallout 1.

TIP: You can access this picture anytime during gameplay by pressing F1.


The hotkeys I use a lot in Fallout 1 are:
B to change weapons, I for inventory, 2 for lockpicking, Space to end combat, and ESC.

fallout 1 hotkeys

How to Play Fallout 1 > Important Tips

Now I'm gonna give you some tips and tricks. First, remember to save often and use multiple saving slots. The town folk doesn't like it when you steal a rock from a kid. Don't be afraid to run away. If you ever get caught in a fight you can't finish, run to the edge of the map. Save yourself OR load a previous Save. In combat, always use targeted shots with pistols and rifles. Do that by right-clicking the slot of your gun until a small circle appears. "Shoot them in the eyes, Kenny, always in the eyes." With good Luck, good Perception, and a great Small Guns skill, you can kill any foe in one precise shot to the eyes!

fallout 1 targeting

Use Stimpaks only if your HP counter turned yellow. Keep them for the final boss; you're gonna need lots of them! Never give Ian -- or any other companion -- burst-capable weapons (ie. miniguns or uzi). NPCs don't give a brahmin shet if you're in the line of fire, and I'd hate to see you smash your keyboard because of the friendly crossfire.

Also, keep in mind that killing people in some towns could make recruitable NPCs angry; try not to do that if you want companions. Oh, and don't smash those deathclaw eggs until you're done grinding! You get A TON of experience from killing respawned deathclaws. If you ever get stuck in a room, ask your companion to change formation, to clear the path.


If you have at least 6 Luck, you will be able to find the ultimate weapon in Fallout 1 in a random encounter: the Alien Blaster. And, if you took "Action Boy," "Bonus Rate of Fire" (level 9), and 'Sniper' (level 18), the blaster can deal a whopping 300-800 damage!

If you notice you're running out of time, take the Pathfinder perk. I did it and it reduced the world map travel time by 25%. By 50% if you choose it again!

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Well, I hope you found this How to play Fallout 1 guide useful. I know I had fun writing it. See you around the wasteland, vault dweller! Or in my Facebook group, whichever is closer.


Read next: Fallout 1 Controls


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