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A First Look at 2d20 Fallout from Modiphius

Fallout 2d20.jpg


Fallout has had an interesting journey to its place in geek culture. It started out as a GURPS computer game, turned into a series of RPGs from a beloved team, expanded its hold on gamers with a shift to first person gaming and currently exists as a slowly but surely improving MMORPG. It seemed inevitable that the setting would return to the tabletop. Modiphius has taken on several licenses using its 2d20 system and sent a review copy of the PDF for its latest to me. Does it fit like a smart looking fedora? Or is it as useful as completely drained power armor?

For those unfamiliar with 2d20, it is a roll-under system where players roll 2d20 under an attribute plus a skill to gain successes. Tasks have a difficulty from 1-5 successes. Players can gain extra successes through critical rolls of 1 or by gaining additional dice by purchasing them with momentum. If a player rolls more successes than needed, they can use them to purchase additional effects like more damage or information, or they can bank those successes to use later. The designers are second only to Free League in adapting the basic engine to fit different genres and licensees. Sometimes the games are very grainy. Sometimes they are not.

In this case, lead designers Nathan Dowdell and Sam Webb along with Alison Cybe, Donathin Frye and Virgina Page hit the middle of the pack. Making a character is rather simple; pick a species, assign attribute points to once that match the game, pick a perk modeled after ones across the franchise and the character is ready. The team seemed to go out of their way to adjust 2d20 in a way that would be immediately recognizable to players of the later Fallout games. That includes adjusting game terms and mechanics like momentum and determination to things like Action Points and Luck.

There are six broad character types: Brotherhood of Steel, Ghoul, Super Mutant, Mister Handy, Survivor and Vault Dweller. These aren’t classes in a strict sense; they mostly give you a starting perk and a chart to determine your starting equipment. Some of the character choices have some fun subtypes, like several Mister Handy builds that can be mixed and matched, like a Miss Nanny personality stuck in a Mister Gutsy body. There are a few character types I would have liked to see as playable that show up in the enemies section, like Protectrons or Synths. I hope that as more books are released for the line these types get added to the game.

The complexity comes in with character gear. Gear customization is a major part of the video games and that focus continues in Fallout. Most of a character’s abilities come out of the weapons and armor they carry and the game expects players to fiddle around with their loadouts as they scavenge the wasteland. Games where gear really matters have gone out of vogue in modern designs, but Fallout shows a way forward where players can modify basic gear without flipping through dozens of gear books. If anything, the company should consider gear decks so players can assemble their cool guns in a tableau while they play.

Combat is a mixture of abstract elements and gritter detail. Hit locations matter, but only on a critical success. Ranges are defined by zones but they have an ideal zone where they function. Ammo is counted but the system offers a risk/system where more shots fired mean more damage dice and therefore a better chance at a critical hit. This models different play styles of Fallout well, with some players taking a measured approach to battles and others changing forth and blasting with both hands.

Seekers of lore might be disappointed by the fact that the game concentrates on Fallout 4. Don’t pick up the book expecting a timeline and backstory of all the games. The information is useful for playing in the Boston setting, but I saw a missed opportunity here. Rather than a specific setting I would have preferred advice on how to turn your own city into a Fallout setting. Part of the joy of these games is walking past a location that you recognize and see how the setting has changed it. The first thing I would do at my table is sit down and discuss what local landmarks we’d want in the game and how we could satirize issues in the city through the various factions within the game.

Fallout is a strong translation of the electronic RPG to a tabletop format. If you enjoy those elements of the game and want a tabletop RPG that plays to them, this is an excellent pickup. It’s also a good choice for GMs wanting to hook friends who love video games but have been shy about getting into tabletop. For fans of the video game looking for material they want to convert into their favorite system, they will head back out into the wasteland, unsatisfied.
 
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Rob Wieland

Rob Wieland

Looks like a great game. Not sure why fans of the first Fallout computer game are hating this RPG on some community sites calling it a Fallout 4 type faill.I liked all the Fallout computer games.
 

Reynard

Legend
Looks like a great game. Not sure why fans of the first Fallout computer game are hating this RPG on some community sites calling it a Fallout 4 type faill.I liked all the Fallout computer games.
It is very definitely an adaptation of Fallout 4 specifically and given how divisive that game is for the fan community. While I like Fallout 4 and am excited to give this RPG a try (I already failed my save and preordered it) I am also somewhat disappointed it isn't a broader "Fallout Universe" RPG. Each game has a distinct tone and different focus and it would have been nice to have a big Fallout toolkit to build our own.
 

R_Chance

Adventurer
Advice on converting your locale to a wasteland would have been cool. Hopefully they do setting books. One of the appeals of Fallout 3 for me was the familiarity I have with DC. Fallout 4 is not my favorite in the franchise, but it's pretty good. I could skip the emphasis on settlement building and spend more time on exploration though.

I am not a fan of the 2D20 system they use, but I might have to pick this up for reading material. And who knows, a well done 2D20 Fallout game may convert me...
 


Abstruse

Hero
It's not surprising that Modiphius started with Fallout 4 as it's the most recent entry in the franchise (side-eyes anyone who brings up 76) and the best-selling title in the series. It's going to be the most recognizable entry in the franchise to more casual players because of its wide availability. Modiphius took a similar tack when developing the skirmish wargame Fallout: Wasteland Warfare, starting with Fallout 4. Considering they've expanded into the Capital Wasteland and the Mohave with that game, it's very likely that other settings will get their own books in the new future.

There's also the fact that this IS a licensed product and it may not have been Modiphius's decision to focus on the location and timeframe of Fallout 4 compared to the other games in the series since, well, Fallout 1, 2, 3, and New Vegas aren't available on current-gen consoles while Fallout 4 is. I mean it could be worse. They could've insisted on West Virginia.
 

Reynard

Legend
I hope the game gets robust support and we get sourcebooks for those other regions and eras. I even want a FO76 book. I don't play that game because I like my FO single player, but it is still full of cool stories and beasties.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Rolling low is just not something I can get into. I get that there is nothing wrong with it. I get being number 1 at something means your the best. I even get that for years i played 1e and 2e D&D with roll under mechanics. But psychologicaly i just dont like it. I want to roll high numbers.
It's trivial to flip it. Just make a chart if you don't want to do the math every time.

Formula: 21 - roll under # = roll over #.

Chart:
RU / RO
1 / 20
2 / 19
3 / 18
4 / 17
5 / 16
6 / 15
7 / 14
8 / 13
9 / 12
10 / 11
11 / 10
12 / 9
13 / 8
14 / 7
15 / 6
16 / 5
17 / 4
18 / 3
19 / 2
20 / 1
 

Paragon Lost

Terminally Lost
Supporter
"The designers are second only to Free League in adapting the basic engine to fit different genres and licensees. Sometimes the games are very grainy. Sometimes they are not." -Rob Wieland

Honestly I feel that Modiphius is number one at doing this and not Free Leagues. Look at how many they've done in comparison.
 

MGibster

Legend
Does it still have that glitch that prevents you from walking through a door after an NPC walks through it? I kid because I love. I've been a big fan of the Fallout games ever since the original isometric games from the 1990s. Fallout 3 was divisive because the tone changed quite a bit from the originals with Bethesda's first outing into the series. In the original Fallout series I wasn't consuming centuries old pre-packaged mac 'n cheese or Salisbury steak, wasn't listening to kitchy music, and I don't recall any wood framed suburban housing standing after a century two of neglect. But I still enjoyed Fallout 3, New Vegas, and Fallout 4 quite a bit. Though by the end of Fallout 4 I've kind of felt like the franchise was getting a bit long in the tooth.

It's a great setting though for a TTRPG though. I'm going to seriously consider picking this one up.
 

cbwjm

Hero
Looks like a great game. Not sure why fans of the first Fallout computer game are hating this RPG on some community sites calling it a Fallout 4 type faill.I liked all the Fallout computer games.
People think fallout 4 was a fail? I love that game, people i know who play it love that game. Anyone who thinks it's a failure must be somewhat delusional.

I'll probably check this out, not a fan of 2d20, but I am a fan of fallout. Might be like the Conan 2d20 game where I just buy the main book to check out though.
 

CubicsRube

Adventurer
Supporter
I feel like I should give 2d20 a shot sometime.

Psychologically roll under doesn't sit well with me either, but in play it may be fine.
 

Abstruse

Hero
People think fallout 4 was a fail? I love that game, people i know who play it love that game. Anyone who thinks it's a failure must be somewhat delusional.
There is a lot to complain about with Fallout 4. I absolutely love the game myself and I think the Silver Shroud side quest in particular is probably the most fun I've ever had in a video game. But it's not the best Fallout game in a lot of ways. The main quest has some serious writing problems - The biggest being that you are a parent on a quest to save your child who has been kidnapped...but if you barrel at that main plot like a real parent would, you will get stonewalled fast because you're too low level as the game expects you to do a bunch of exploring and side quests. "I must find the man who murdered my spouse and kidnapped my son! But first, let me find some paint for Fenway Park's wall then pretend to be a superhero from a radio serial then personally by hand reconstruct an entire town or five then track down baseball memorabilia across half the Commonwealth then sort out the radio DJ's self-confidence problem then--"

Then there are more gameplay aspects. The engine in Fallout 4 is showing its age hard as they're trying to shoehorn in features it just wasn't built to handle. The simplified leveling system with perks means you lose a lot of nuance to character creation and advancement, plus it puts way too much emphasis on RNG for things like conversational skill tests. In FO3 and FONV, you either have enough skill to try the dialogue option or you don't. In FO4, it's randomized so there's more swinginess. Plus there are fewer opportunities to use those social skills in meaningful ways. Like rarely can you avoid combat altogether by talking your way out of it, but rather you just scare off half the mob of raiders or whatever.

On top of that, when people compare Fallout 4 to Fallout New Vegas, they're not really comparing the two. They're comparing Fallout 4 as it shipped at launch to the copy of Fallout New Vegas they've modded over the years with various patches, fixes, expansions, options, quests, gear, NPCs, companions, etc. And it's hard to for a new game to compete with one that audiences can literally cherry-pick what parts of the game they want to add in to make it the most fun for them personally. And granted, Fallout 4 has a staggering amount of mods now, that's not the game a lot of people are thinking of when they think Fallout 4.

So while I personally love Fallout 4 and it's neck and neck which one I prefer between that one and New Vegas...I can see why some people were disappointed in it. Though I don't think Fallout 4 deserves the level of hate it gets.

Then you've got the people who are still pissed that Fallout isn't an isometric turn-based 2D RPG like Fallout 1 and 2 were and nothing Bethesda ever does is going to be good enough for those particular fans.
 

Jeff Carpenter

Adventurer
It's trivial to flip it. Just make a chart if you don't want to do the math every time.

Formula: 21 - roll under # = roll over #.

Chart:
RU / RO
1 / 20
2 / 19
3 / 18
4 / 17
5 / 16
6 / 15
Maybe get a glass table with a camera underneath that shows the bottom of my dice.

I've played enough CoC that if i converted it to percentiles i could probably get over the hump. Of course I would be playing the 4d10 system at that point.
 

Stacie GmrGrl

Adventurer
"The designers are second only to Free League in adapting the basic engine to fit different genres and licensees. Sometimes the games are very grainy. Sometimes they are not." -Rob Wieland

Honestly I feel that Modiphius is number one at doing this and not Free Leagues. Look at how many they've done in comparison.
Agreed.

Compare Conan to Dishonored to John Carter to Star Trek to Infinity. Each is 2d20 but each is very different as far as crunch factor and setting goes.

Dishonored has so little crunch and seems more Cortex than 2d20 yet is a 2d20 Light game, where Infinity and Conan are your 2d20 Heavy games and John Carter is like a 2d20 Supers/Narrative game in feel (all it needs is more powers). Star Trek is in the middle, yet feels just like Star Trek with all its sub-systems (and I can see an argument that because of its sub-systems Star Trek could be the most crunchy 2d20 game if you use all of them.)

Year Zero games are just tweaks in how you use d6's plus a few modified rules and retheming. They are more distinct from each other in many more nuanced ways compared to the 2d20 games, which truly range from super light to super crunchy.
 


Abstruse

Hero
If you don't mine me asking, why does roll under bother you?
I can't speak for CubicsRube, but I'm the same way. It just feels wrong to go "I rolled a 1!" with excitement. Mentally I know the statistics are the same either way. I know that I have the same probability of rolling a 1 as a 20 and it's an arbitrary distinction. I know all that.

But it still feels wrong to want to roll low and lament rolling high. It goes against everything I know about RPGs, likely because I never played much CoC or Hero or GURPS or other roll-under systems. I grew up playing Shadowrun, Vampire, MechWarrior, WEG Star Wars, etc. I didn't even really get into D&D until way later when 3rd Ed came out and everything was roll-over.

I can push through it and play a system that's roll-under, but it's never going to be a system I really get into just because I'm trained to want to roll high and I'm always going to have that initial half-second gut feeling of "Crap!" when I roll low before my brain kicks in and says "No, that's good in this system".
 


There is a lot to complain about with Fallout 4. I absolutely love the game myself and I think the Silver Shroud side quest in particular is probably the most fun I've ever had in a video game. But it's not the best Fallout game in a lot of ways. The main quest has some serious writing problems - The biggest being that you are a parent on a quest to save your child who has been kidnapped...but if you barrel at that main plot like a real parent would, you will get stonewalled fast because you're too low level as the game expects you to do a bunch of exploring and side quests. "I must find the man who murdered my spouse and kidnapped my son! But first, let me find some paint for Fenway Park's wall then pretend to be a superhero from a radio serial then personally by hand reconstruct an entire town or five then track down baseball memorabilia across half the Commonwealth then sort out the radio DJ's self-confidence problem then--"

Then there are more gameplay aspects. The engine in Fallout 4 is showing its age hard as they're trying to shoehorn in features it just wasn't built to handle. The simplified leveling system with perks means you lose a lot of nuance to character creation and advancement, plus it puts way too much emphasis on RNG for things like conversational skill tests. In FO3 and FONV, you either have enough skill to try the dialogue option or you don't. In FO4, it's randomized so there's more swinginess. Plus there are fewer opportunities to use those social skills in meaningful ways. Like rarely can you avoid combat altogether by talking your way out of it, but rather you just scare off half the mob of raiders or whatever.

On top of that, when people compare Fallout 4 to Fallout New Vegas, they're not really comparing the two. They're comparing Fallout 4 as it shipped at launch to the copy of Fallout New Vegas they've modded over the years with various patches, fixes, expansions, options, quests, gear, NPCs, companions, etc. And it's hard to for a new game to compete with one that audiences can literally cherry-pick what parts of the game they want to add in to make it the most fun for them personally. And granted, Fallout 4 has a staggering amount of mods now, that's not the game a lot of people are thinking of when they think Fallout 4.

So while I personally love Fallout 4 and it's neck and neck which one I prefer between that one and New Vegas...I can see why some people were disappointed in it. Though I don't think Fallout 4 deserves the level of hate it gets.

Then you've got the people who are still pissed that Fallout isn't an isometric turn-based 2D RPG like Fallout 1 and 2 were and nothing Bethesda ever does is going to be good enough for those particular fans.
This is all right but doesn't even address the biggest and most fundamental problems with FO4.

First off, unlike FO1 and FO2, the world doesn't make any sense, in ways it inherited from FO3, but didn't correct. It's supposed to 200+ years after a nuclear war, but there's trash everywhere (which makes zero sense - in RL apocalyptic situations and the like people absolutely do tidy up because it's important to survival), everything looks like it's 20-30 years after a war not 200, people haven't really started rebuilding in any real way, new societies are barely a thing and so on. There are no/few trees despite it being a temperate area. There's also essentially only one visual style, this faux-1950s one. And the whole game leans hard into a 1950s vibe, right down to the way people are still acting, the robot PI, and so on.

This is a really stark contrast to FO1/2, where they were a shorter time after the bomb, but people had started rebuilding, had tidied up, had formed new societies (some quite complex and advanced, like the NGR or whatever they were called), and where it was set in a desert, so it made sense that it was largely treeless etc. They also had multiple different aesthetics, as you might expect, with the faux-1950s one being a distinct pre-war one, not something still perpetuated. Fallout New Vegas goes the same basic way as FO1/2 - if people live somewhere, they've tidied it up, and there are entire new civilizations and so on. It also has a more varied aesthetic. Some of what I thought was in FO3 and was a varied aesthetic turned out to actually be in FONV. It does have a 1950s vibe, but only as associated with New Vegas itself, and it's an intentional vibe created and maintained by the being in charge of that.

This is a huge underlying problem with FO3/4. It's unreflected. Thoughtless. A copy from someone who profoundly didn't understand the originals at more than a superficial level.

Before anyone has a freakout, as they may, that doesn't make it automatically "a bad game", but it means that it doesn't really fit with the legacy of FO1/2/NV. It's quite a distinct thing, but it tends not to be obvious to people who started with FO3 or later, regardless of whether they eventually played the others. FO4 is a pretty good game in a straightforward sense, but it's a very very very shallow take on Fallout, which focuses entirely on the 1950s stuff and the Americana stuff, which were only a part of FO1/2/NV.

There's also the fact that FO4 has one of the most obnoxiously and ineptly forced stories in modern CRPGs (FO3 also had big problems here, particularly with the ending, which even after changes, was hilariously dumb and literally insulting to the player). I don't want to go on at length as we'd be here all day, but they force you to be these specific characters, force very weepy and overacted dialogue into your mouth, and force you to pursue a pretty dull quest... and then basically forget about it until it's time for the very end - it's not woven-through like any Bioware game - and it's not fun to engage with like, say, Cyberpunk 2077's main questline. It's just obnoxious and showed a lack of imagination on the part of the writers.

FO76 acknowledged/fixed the tree thing (despite being far closer to the bomb than even FO1 in time!) and I hear stuff is a bit tidier in lived-in places too (haven't played it), so maybe FO5 will make a bit more sense.

There are other criticisms too - the tacked-on settlement-building, the Diablo-esque "legendary" enemies and the literally magic equipment they dropped, and the ones you outlined. It all adds up with FO4 being really not an ideal game to base your Fallout game on if you want a "broad church" of Fallout fans. The ideal game for a "broad church" would probably have been FONV, or better yet, probably getting a licence to use all the FO games.
Like everything in life, what you're used to feels right. Do it for a few weeks, and it'll probably feel just fine. Like visiting another country -- it feels weird at first, and then suddenly it's all normal and home sounds weird.
This is true but one thing that messes with it for me is if you play in a couple of games or more, if you're used to roll-over/roll-high, and you start playing a roll-under one you don't ever actually get used to it, because you're still playing roll-over/roll-high and I think given the vast majority of games are that way, you stick with that on some level.
 

MGibster

Legend
As a wee lad GURPS was one of our regular games and you roll 3d6 and hope for the lowest results. We also played a lot of Star Fleet Battles which was another game where rolling low was best. It's weird to me that anyone would be bothered in the least about roll low versus low high but we all got our hangups.
 

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