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Power armor in Fallout 76 Image: Bethesda Softworks

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Fallout 76 players are spending months getting their characters sick

Anything for some Atoms

In the real world, folks everywhere are taking extra care right now to wash their hands, and avoid situations which might put them at risk for contracting a virus. But in a digital recreation of Appalachia, some wastelanders are running head-first into health-compromising situations.

“If I didn’t have an active disease then I would engage diseased enemies that I could have avoided, slept on dirty sleeping bags, [and] ate rotten food from my inventory or random plants,” Fallout 76 player Darth Obnoxious told Polygon, recalling some video game escapades from last year.

Fallout 76 takes place in the post-apocalypse, where an onslaught of atomic bombs have ended polite society and irradiated most of the world. The massively multiplayer role-playing game asks fans to be mindful of how they interact with the environment in order to survive. Your character must eat, drink, and sleep — but if you want to keep your avatar healthy, then you need to seek out clean, uncontaminated resources. You also have to be careful when battling creatures, which have mutated into new forms and are capable of transmitting diseases to the player.

The list of potential ailments is long. Cockroaches can inflict something called “Blood Worms,” which can weaken your constitution. Mutant scorpions, meanwhile, can give the player “Weeping Sores,” a disease that causes your wounds to bleed more. Spend enough time out in the wasteland, and your genetic make-up may at random change altogether. Sometimes, these mutations can be beneficial — gaining something called a “Healing Factor” can vastly increase your regeneration — but these status effects always have some kind of downside as well. Gaining “Eagle Eyes” might increase your perception, but your character will lose some of their strength.

Getting rid of these afflictions is usually just a matter of taking the right medication (or visiting the neighborhood doctor), which is easy enough, though diseases can still be an annoyance for the unprepared wanderer. Generally speaking, most players strive fo a clean bill of health ... unless they’re vying for an in-game achievement.

Fallout 76 has an in-game currency called Atoms, which can be redeemed in a shop for cosmetics, such as a costume that makes you look like a cryptid. Atoms can be purchased for real money, or they can be earned-in game via challenges. Contracting any given disease for the first time can net you some Atoms, but there’s also a challenge specifically for incurring every single disease in the game. The more sickly you are, the better.

According to several Fallout 76 players who spoke to Polygon, many diseases happen naturally just by virtue of playing as you would normally. Darth Obnoxious, for example, recalls that he often finds himself over-encumbered, yet unwilling to let go of any of his loot. So, his character will end up walking through long stretches of environmental hazards just to get to a vendor, where he can unload. It can mean trekking across vast bodies of dirty water, for instance, which often means dealing with dysentery or parasites.

“Water is one of the places that you will catch diseases quickly,” Darth Obnoxious noted.

“They are the worst, in my opinion, not because they have any drastic effect on stats like some other diseases, but they are persistent,” he added. Getting rid of these conditions often means clearing out your stock of food and water. Darth Obnoxious tried to make the best of it, though, opting to have “Plaguewalker” mutation that caused area of effect damage to enemies while he was diseased.

“Droves of smaller critters fell at my feet as I passed,” he said.

Fallout 76 - three armed people running along a mine cart track Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks

For sicknesses that fans can’t figure out, they turn to their peers. Forums are filled with hilarious anecdotes where folks tell each other to roll around in irradiated swamps, or to stand in flames for as long as possible. It’s a bit of a crapshoot, because the game doesn’t tell you how or why you’ve contracted an illness — leaving players to theorize and experiment, even if it means putting their character in danger. Worse, because Fallout 76 is a buggy experience, fans sometimes have to contract maladies multiple times in the hopes that the game accurately records their status.

Perhaps the most elusive disease that players have chased is called The Whoopsies, a hazardous condition that decreases your character’s Luck stat by 2 points. One player reportedly spent over 676 hours — about a month of real-world time — trying to harness the disease, likely in pursuit of a challenge. Another player in that discussion claimed that they had been trying to get Whoopsies since the game’s beta back in 2018.

It took Darth Obnoxious about a month of trial and error to understand what made The Whoopsies possible. He knew that Mirelurks were somehow involved, because a friend of his got it by duking it out with crustaceans. But that was all he knew at first, which meant that he had to get creative.

“I tried taking off armor, using [medicine], ensuring I was hungry and or thirsty, but nothing seemed to work,” he recounts.

Part of what makes The Whoopsies difficult is that, even if you know the exact conditions to get it, the actual odds it’ll infest your body are fairly low.

“That’s everyone’s toughest disease, because of everything you have to do to get it,” Fallout 76 player Steven Metzger told Polygon. “First, you have to find a Mirelurk queen. Then, you have to keep her alive so she can attack [you] with her Mirelurk spawn.”

The hatchlings then have to attack the player for a chance to get the disease. If you get this far — the Mirelurk Queen can be a tough boss — the spawn have to continue attacking the player for several minutes. That’s if you’re lucky. The Queen may not generate hatchlings at all. The hatchlings might die before you get The Whoopsies, or they won’t carry the disease. Players also need to come stocked with plenty of anti-radiation medicine, Metzger noted, stating that the ability was hot-keyed in his attempts. Luck, supplies, and time have to be on your side.

“Mirelurk Queens can be a pain to deal with,” Darth Obnoxious said.

Fallout 76 beta - Mirelurk Queen Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks

It wasn’t until late last year, after six months of trying for the “All Diseases” challenge, that Darth Obnoxious finally got the elusive Whoopsies. It was on a whim — his play group had nearly given up on the challenge. But one fateful day, they just happened to stumble on a Mirelurk Queen which seemed prime for a photo opportunity. But since the mutated crab kept attacking them while they posed for pictures, the clan decided to try for The Whoopsies one last time. Darth Obnoxious recalls letting “diseased [hatchlings] nip me as they pleased,” just to see what would happen. After about five minutes, and after months of contracting a wide swath of ailments and diseases, his character finally got The Whoopsies. Some of his friends, he notes, gave up along the way.

“I am glad that it was a challenge, and I am happy that having diseases was built into the game in a way that it can be either a detriment or a bonus depending on the way you choose to play [it],” he told Polygon. “I feel for all of the level one critters that have lost their lives from approaching me when I am trudging along over-encumbered, but have no plans on removing the Plaguewalker mutation.

“My appreciation for the various diseases that I harbor from time to time will probably remain for as long as I play Fallout 76.”

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