Fallout 3

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Character Building

Attributes

  • Charisma is fairly useless as Speech checks are far more frequent in dialogue than Charisma checks and you can simply tag Speech if you want to be good at talking.
  • While Luck is otherwise not crucial, the powerful "Better Criticals" perk (+50% critical damage) does require 6 Luck and 6 Perception.
  • Intelligence is useful on any character as skill points are valuable no matter the build.

Skills

  • Tag whatever skills you believe to be useful at the start, safe choices include at least one weapon skill and Lockpicking/Science. You have the chance to readjust your character build after finishing the tutorial.
  • Hacking and lockpicking always require either 25, 50, 75 or 100 Science/Lockpicking, so aim for those thresholds. Lockpicking is arguably more useful of the two as many things accessible by hacking can also be broken into with lockpicking.
  • The Repair skill is very useful, though you will eventually encounter NPCs who can repair anything to 100% if you can afford it. Also, unique weapons can also be repaired with their mundane counterparts and vice versa.

Perks

  • The perks providing extra skills points upon level ups (Educated) and from books (Comprehension) are both worth taking early. Other skill point (and experience) increasing perks tend to be skippable.
  • While Bloody Mess can be funny, everything exploding into chunks can make looting enemy groups a chore.
  • Don't forget about Intense Training if you're having trouble picking a perk.

General Advice

  • It's worth picking up as much as you can carry from the starting area for some early spending money and repair fodder.
  • It's possible to skip parts of the main quest if you're enthusiastic in your exploring, but it won't break anything.
  • Holding down the Pip-Boy button activates a short-range flashlight.
  • When hacking, you can always back out and retry mid-attempt to avoid getting locked out. Also, finding closed brackets like () or [] in the garbage between words will remove wrong answers or refresh attempts.
  • Handling the atomic bomb situation in Megaton nets you your personal housing where you can safely stash your gear and rest.
  • Certain miscellaneous items such as Pre-War Books and Sugar Bombs can be given to specific people for extra money. Nuka-Cola Quantum bottles are of special note as 30 are required for a certain quest.
  • Keep an eye out for Vault-Tec bobbleheads, one exists for each skill and attribute and give permanent bonuses. One (Medicine) can be found at the very beginning of the game on your father's desk.
  • Ammo and stimpaks have no carry weight so they essentially double as currency. If a vendor is out of money, consider trading your loot for ammo and stimpaks which you can later sell to someone else.
  • While headshots tend to be the most effective in combat, sometimes it can be worth crippling an opponent's arm to disarm them or their legs to reduce their movement speed.