Burst of Insight—More Wastelands Rebooted, part three

Key Elements

My dumb brain really won’t give up this idea and I find myself spiraling closer and closer to running a Fallout 4 limited campaign despite not having the time or bandwidth. I keep hoping this blog series will scratch that itch but so far I’m not convinced. Right now I just hope you folks enjoy my efforts.

Recently I’ve been talking reboots specifically rebooting Fallout 4 for a tabletop campaign.  Previously, we journeyed in the way back machine to 2002 and one of my favorite Dragon Magazine articles. Robin D. Laws’ article, “T.V. Structure, NEXT WEEK on an All New Episode of . . .” laid out how to plot an episodic campaign which feels like a great way to adapt Fallout from console to tabletop.

My plan is to use some of the video game’s questlines in much the same way the MCU uses comic book cannon as a basis for the MCU. Obviously, the MCU makes changes from the original comics for the big screen. Likewise, we don’t need to adhere 100% to the source material either plotlines can be bent and reshaped to best suit the table. For example, if several players want to be pre-war neighbors, maybe one is a ghoul still in residence in Sanctuary Hills while more than one PC survived the cryogenic sleep. With multiple survivors, it’s likely that both of Sean’s parents survived and both could be played by PCs. Just as likely it is possible that no one wants to play as the “Sole Survivor” of the video game. In such a case the videogame survivor can be a NPC and the PCs could be helping with the missing child plotline or that plot could be reduced in importance or eliminated entirely.

Before I lock in all of my possible plots I would be sure to host a session zero to determine what my players would want in a Fallout themed campaign. Including specifically who they want to play and what concepts and stories from the videogame are most important. As a thought experiment however I can make some guesses and of course indulge some of my own interests.

  • Exploration and Community Building: Confession time, I haven’t read Kingmaker yet, partly because I was a player in the early chapters of the AP and now I’m eagerly awaiting the Pathfinder 2 adaptation. That said I think digging into Paizo’s big hexploration and kingdom building adventure will only serve to benefit how I go about constructing the campaign.


  • The Institute: From pretty early on in Fallout 4 the faction known as the Institute begins to crop up in conversations and is a central force in the plotline of Sean’s abduction. Since my players are well aware of how that plays out in the game this is a good place to deviate from the script. We might lose some of the emotional kick of the video game but honestly most of my players are well aware of how the story is supposed to end.

Now as I said the Institute begins to appear pretty early in the game, rumors that the institute is kidnapping people and replacing them with synths (androids nearly indistinguishable from real humans) is creating paranoia and distrust. Again, as I pointed out in my last article Suspicion is a central theme in Fallout 4. So because the institute is such a key element to both plot and theme, I might double-down on the Institute’s presence drawing additional inspiration from the West World remake. If I have a known synth PC I might run a flashback scene with an institute scientist using a special pip boy to tune and set the PCs final parameters. Obviously, this would be an institute scientist the PCs ultimately meet.

  • Crafting: Making / improving equipment is a big deal in the video game for Fallout, to feel like Fallout 4 it’s going to need to be a central component of the tabletop experience as well. Fortunately, several game systems offer rules on how to handle crafting in play.

Next Time: Quests into Episodes With a few core guesses about what’s important to a Fallout campaign or better yet actual player input I can dig into the quest system and start outlining my episode order for season one of my campaign. Each session or occasionally multiple sessions comprise an episode to keep with the TV theme and a complete story arc of about 10-20 episodes would comprise a season.









Andrew Marlowe

placed in the Top 16 of RPG Superstar in 2012 and 2014, one of the few contestants to get that far in the competition twice. Since then, he has contributed to many Paizo and third party Pathfinder products, including one of the network’s favourite releases in the Pathfinder Player Companion line, the Dirty Tactics Toolbox. Every other Tuesday, he will be sharing his Burst of Insight, with design tips for would-be game designers from a decorated freelancer.