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Fallout 76 beginner’s guide

ABS: Always Be Scavenging

Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Fallout 76 isn’t like the Fallout role-playing games preceding it, in that the first several hours are rather linear as players complete a long series of introductory missions. After creating a character, players leave Vault 76 and may go anywhere. There is a main quest line to pursue, but there are more places and encounters in the rest of the world vying for players’ attention, distracting them from a less obvious main goal.

This guide sheds light on what is worth doing in the immediate surroundings outside Vault 76, and what new players should focus on developing and building up at lower levels before moving on to more advanced missions and content. Fallout 76 is much more survival-oriented than its predecessors, so scavenging, conserving ammunition and maintaining supplies of clean (or at least acceptable) food and water take on greater importance in Appalachia.

Fallout 76 - playing banjo
Finding and playing instruments (for 30 seconds) will give you the Well-Tuned effect, which regenerates Action Points 25 percent faster for one hour.
Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks

General tips

  • As an online multiplayer game, Fallout 76 has no pause function. You can still be attacked while you’re hunting for an item in a menu, for instance. So you should always have a melee weapon favorited, and a firearm with a lot of ammo helps too. When you’re surprised by enemies, one or two taps left on the D-pad will give you the emergency weapon you need (and tapping right will use a Stimpak). Any other weapons should be assigned to the weapons wheel, not favorited. Furthermore, when bringing up the Pip-Boy, toggle it to the overlay (the View button/touchpad on console controllers) so that you can continue to see the world around you while navigating the menus.
  • Keep that melee weapon favorited and ready at all times. Ammunition is a lot more scarce in Fallout 76 than in past games. Mongrels and Feral Ghouls move quickly and are best dealt with using a machete, knife or hatchet. Killing Docile Radstags or Brahmins for food and hide is also best done with a melee weapon as opposed to a firearm.
  • The button you use to bring up your Pip-Boy is also the one that turns on/off your light. You’ll need your light a lot in Fallout 76. Hold this button down to turn it on. X/Square both readies (tap) and puts away (hold) your weapon (or fists). RB/R1 is a bash attack with the weapon in your hand (the butt or stock of a gun if you’re out of ammo). The best bash attack to have is a gun with a bayonet affixed. Bayonets are either found or crafted.
  • Scavenge everything. Until you reach level 5, you should be picking clean every building, dwelling or site you encounter. Then break down the junk at any workbench (X or square when you step to it) and store all the junk in a stash box. (Raw materials take up less space than junk items; also, when you die, you lose all your junk and have to backtrack to get it before someone else does.) While you may trade with other human players, and there are robot vendors (in places like the Morgantown Airport, or the railroad station in Sutton), caps are harder to come by than in past Fallouts — and anyway, you will likely need your currency more for fast travel or relocating your CAMP site. You should expect to craft and modify, or find and repair, what you need rather than buy it. Seriously consider increasing your strength (to increase carry weight) or taking Luck Perk Cards that improve the condition or the quantity of items you find.
  • Food and water will be a greater concern than in past Fallout games. This will also increase your exposure to radiation. Consider taking Perks that either increase the nourishment/hydration you receive from drinking and eating, or Perks that reduce the rads you absorb from eating impure food. Being careless about food or water will mean emergency side trips to find and/or cook some, or eating raw or irradiated things out of desperation. It can get in the way of what you really want to be doing, so plan ahead.
Food and water will be more important than in past Fallouts, sort of like hardcore mode in New Vegas or survival mode in Fallout 4. Purified water is so useful and rare it almost shouldn’t be used as a thirst quencher.
Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks
  • Both RadAway and Stimpaks may now be diluted, using purified water, at a chemistry station. While this halves the healing gained from a full dose, it also lets you take half doses when you’re trying to heal lesser amounts of damage, and save a full Stimpak or RadAway bag for when you are gravely hurt or seriously suffering from radiation poisoning. For this reason, purified water is so valuable it should rarely be used as a thirst quencher. Drink impure water instead, taking the minimal radiation hit (or mitigating it with Rad-X) and flushing that out with a diluted RadAway dose once it accumulates to about a quarter of your health bar.
  • You can take radiation just from gathering dirty water (from a stream, a pump or a tap). When you are stocking up on water supplies, pop a Rad-X and then also use this time to fully hydrate yourself (and eat any irradiated food).
  • Diseases play a greater role, and with enough radiation you can acquire mutations — some of which are helpful, and nearly all of which carry drawbacks. Mutations can be cured (along with radiation) by taking RadAway, but note that RadAway also significantly lowers your disease resistance for a good chunk of time. The Starched Genes Perk, which we haven’t seen through level 10 yet, will allow you to keep beneficial mutations after a RadAway flush.
It might be a good idea to take a nap in your bed before leaving Vault 76, to get the Well Rested effect for the next two hours of game time.
Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks
  • Sleeping on bare ground (a mattress or sleeping bag) also significantly increases your chance of contracting a disease. This is why the first base-building plan you find is for a standing bed (it’s on a bench at the Overseer’s Campsite). There are standing beds inside the church in Flatwoods, which serves as a Responders’ hospital. Sleeping on the ground after taking RadAway is a sure way to contract a disease.
  • Scrap duplicate weapons rather than keeping them for resale or trade. When you scrap a weapon, you will unlock a mod recipe for that weapon. This includes knives; scrapping a combat knife (found at the Overseer’s Campsite) gives you the serrated edge mod to upgrade the machete. It’s also a good idea to have only one weapon per type of ammunition — for instance, a bolt-action pipe pistol, unmodded, is redundant alongside a short hunting rifle (both use .308 ammo). Scrap the one that’s in worse condition.
  • At crafting benches, you can click the left thumbstick to see the available recipes (that is, all the items for which you have ingredients or components). But pay attention to the condition of your weapons, as repairing them will usually require the same components (adhesive particularly). Further, some weapons will be in worse shape but have a higher potential condition (represented by the condition bar next to it in the Pip-Boy menu). One item may be in better condition than a duplicate item but have a lesser optimal condition.
  • Avoid the “Events” (marked on your map by a yellow hexagon) when you are early in your adventure (through level 5, at least, if not longer). They will automatically be added to your list of quests if you enter the area where one is going on, so just ignore it or unfollow it inside your Pip-Boy or map. Events are chorelike experiences that waste ammunition and don’t provide enough of a reward in weapons, gear or other items, especially if fought solo.
  • Avoid claiming Workshops early on, for the same reason as you should avoid Events. Once claimed, Workshops will have to be defended against waves of enemies that also eat up ammo and degrade the condition of your weapons for little return.

What about leveling up?

We’ve made a guide about that already. Advancement, attributes and Perks work differently in Fallout 76. Don’t agonize too much over your choices early on. Remember that you can swap Perks in and out as necessary, which is very handy for skills like hacking and lockpicking.

Have fun making your Vault-Tec ID card, but once you leave the Vault, you’re not going back inside it.
Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks

Starting out

Inside Vault 76

After the opening cinematic, you begin in your apartment inside Vault 76. This is where you create your character name them, and take a picture representing your Vault-Tec ID.

You can change your appearance at any time in the game. Go to the map and, from there, the main menu (LB/L1 on consoles); the appearance options will be in the list there. But you can’t change your character’s name. If you’re wondering how you will appear to other players, they’ll see your user ID.

When you leave Vault 76, that’s it; you cannot reenter. So it might be a good idea to nap on the bed in your apartment to gain the Well Rested effect (5 percent bonus to XP earned) for the next two hours (real time).

Inside Vault 76, you’ll see a lot of useful-looking junk, in your apartment and outside. The only stuff you can pick up is the Nuka Tapper tape (from the Vault-Tec terminal inside the apartment), a love note on a table in the diner (not a quest item), and the Overseer’s log from her office terminal. Nothing else inside the vault can be picked up except for the items left for you on a series of tables in the short onboarding path that is upstairs leading toward the exits. So don’t waste time trying to scavenge here.

This corpse is located at the bottom of the first set of stairs upon leaving Vault 76. Take that machete. It will be your best friend early in your adventures.
Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks

The Overseer’s office is the only “secret” (though not really) area. It’s behind the table with the water supplies on it. Logging in to the Overseer’s terminal will check off an optional goal; the holotape on it explains the larger story of what’s at stake in Fallout 76.

Pick up all of the items left on the tables. At the “Get A Job” table, don’t forget to pick up the Perk Cards scattered on the table. These will give you (at random) the first bonuses you can apply to your SPECIAL attributes, all of which start out at 1.

Outside Vault 76

Immediately in front of you is a Responder’s corpse with a pipe gun and a small amount of ammunition. Take it and anything else you find. Don’t go exploring to the right. Two Liberator robots are there. Though they’re little more than nuisances, they still aren’t worth wasting the ammunition, and there isn’t anything that way to scavenge.

Go down the steps to the lower level and scavenge another Responder corpse, taking the machete. As mentioned above, melee weapons will be critical in your early adventures.

Moving south along the path, if you venture off to the left/west you’ll encounter a pond and, near it, what looks like an elevated shelter or deer stand. This is not marked on your map and is not a discoverable location. Inside are some useful supplies and scrap items. There is also a banjo and a mouth harp on the two chairs here. Play either for 30 seconds, and you receive the Well Tuned effect, which regenerates Action Points 25 percent faster for the next hour (real time).

The Forest, the starting location in Fallout 76, with discoverable locations highlighted. The unnamed shack with the instruments in it is roughly near where the cow is.

Wixon Homestead

Continuing south toward the quest icon that is the Overseer’s Camp. Stop by Wixon Homestead, but be prepared to fight several of the Scorched. These are humanoid foes like Ghouls, except they can (and do) wield weapons, including firearms. Use your machete on as many as you can to conserve ammunition. The Scorched here are low-level and probably won’t kill you, but you can still take enough damage to require a Stimpak after it’s all over. There are petrified Scorched corpses in the area, too. If you stumble into or otherwise disturb one, it will disintegrate and shed radiation (about 10 RADs) for a short while.

Scavenge everything from this site — the farmhouse, the barn, plus a shed and a storage building on top of a hill a little to the west. We found an armor mod in here. Importantly, there is a ton of fertilizer lying around. That can be scrapped (broken down) into acid at the Tinker’s Workbench in the shed. Acid plus scrap cloth creates gunpowder (though you will need a chemistry station to mix it). Gunpowder plus lead and steel scrap creates ammunition. (Also, if you hang on to raw food or vegetables for too long, they will spoil.)

Gilman Lumber Yard

Gilman Lumber Yard to the north of Wixon Homestead offers free wood, which might be useful to pick up before departing for the Overseer’s Campsite to the south. The Overseer will have left you a cache of supplies in her trunk, and there will be other items lying around here, too. Take all of the junk, break it down at the armor or weapons bench, and store it in the Stash Box. Anything you put into a Stash Box is accessible from any Stash Box you find elsewhere in Appalachia.

By the time you arrive at the Overseer’s Campsite, you should have enough raw material to craft a full set of leather armor (even modding some or all of the pieces to boiled leather) and either mod your pipe pistol or create a pipe revolver. Get to crafting pronto, cook any raw food you have, and get moving southwest to Flatwoods, keeping your machete out to deal with the mongrels and Mister Handy you encounter on the road there.

Flatwoods. Inside that church are standing beds for you to get some rest.
Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks

What’s to do in Flatwoods

Flatwoods is southwest of the Overseer’s Camp, and it contains a wide array of materials, consumables, items and missions to help build your character up before adventuring elsewhere. There is a chemistry station in the church (it’s part of the “Thirst Things Thirst” mission), a cooking pit behind the tavern and a Tinker’s Workbench behind the Red Rocket south of town. These utilities, plus the Stash Box at the Red Rocket and the weapons and armor benches back at the Overseer’s campsite, will help you maximize the junk you scavenge before setting off north for the Morgantown Airport to continue the main quest line.

The Green County Lodge is midway between the Overseer’s Campsite and Flatwoods. It contains a lot of useful junk, particularly in the weight room on the bottom floor. You can lug it back to the Overseer’s campsite in one overencumbered shot, but just note you can’t use fast travel when you are overencumbered, like in past Fallouts.

Flatwoods has a lot of Brahmin cattle roaming around, useful for both leather and food. It will also see a lot of interference from Mister Handies and Securitrons from the nearby “Fertile Soil” event centering around the Vault-Tec Agricultural Research Center.

Across the creek in Flatwoods and up the very steep hill to the west, you will find Relay Tower EM-B1-27 guarded by a minimal robot presence. If you have found a government requisition holotape elsewhere (we did at Wixon Homestead), loading it into the terminal inside here will trigger a supply drop filled with useful items. (Look for a circle icon on your minimap, and listen/look for a sizzling flare marking the drop.) There is also a requisition tape inside this facility, so hike up here even if you don’t have one yet.

The main quest line is an elaborate tutorial up through the missions at Morgantown Airport, where you will ultimately be given instruction in how to set up your mobile CAMP and be given a lot of useful material for doing so.

But take your time in Flatwoods, inspecting all of the homes and sites that are available, listening to holotapes, completing these low-level missions, and gaining an understanding of what has happened here in the 25 years since the bombs fell. Use Flatwoods to build up your inventory of weapons, ammunition, food and aid before setting off.

Fallout 76 - Vault-Tec University
Vault-Tec University in Morgantown.
Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks

Where to go from here?

After completing the missions Flatwoods has to offer, and loading up on useful gear and items, the most obvious next step is to turn back north for Morgantown Airport to continue the main quest line there. The Morgantown Train Yard on the way has a Power Armor Chassis (and at least a couple of pieces of armor) inside one of the abandoned box cars, along with one Fusion Core to run it.

The Gorge Junkyard is on the way to Morgantown Airport. While it contains useful weapons and resources to scavenge, it’s also a Workshop, which in Fallout 76 costs caps to claim and then must be defended against waves of pestlike enemies. The upside is that a claimed (and defended) Workshop will produce resources for the owner as long as they hold it. A Workshop is not essential to your adventuring at very early levels, but an easy one to take and defend (if you have enough ammo) is here at The Gorge Junkyard.

You’ve probably also gotten notices to keep searching for your Overseer’s holotapes, which will take you to her childhood home in Sutton (and that contains a standing bed, among other useful items and resources). The Sutton train station has a robot vendor, Stash Box and Chemistry Station. From there, the next tapes are in Morgantown High School and then Vault-Tec University, both of which offer plenty of scavenging and combat encounters to level up.

Fallout 76 - a barn/garage marked ‘The Devil’s Pitchfork’ Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks

A note about your CAMP

The CAMP is a base that you build from scratch after selecting a location. Your CAMP is movable, but it costs caps to do so. The advantage in making a CAMP is to have all of your basic needs met in one place (rest, food, storage, gun and armor repair, and modification), even though you will find the same resources in scattered locations around Appalachia. Fast travel to your CAMP is always free. Moving a CAMP will cost caps relative to the distance you are moving it.

If you’re about level 6 or lower, pick a CAMP site if you come across an aesthetically pleasing area in your early adventures. Otherwise, wait until after you have finished the missions (including the CAMP tutorial) at Morgantown Airport. Don’t worry about picking a geographically advantageous location yet, as the map is vast and you will be spending a lot of time in one place before moving on to another. After you’ve explored all of the regions in Fallout 76 and gotten an idea for what resources are where, then it might be a good time to start thinking about a permanent CAMP with elaborate structures and amenities.

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