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Watch my Fallout 76 character get more haggard as he levels up

Role-playing the toll the wasteland takes on you, or should

Dr. Charles Y. Elwood at his campsite south of Helvetia, W.V. in 2102.
Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks

Fallout 76 seems like a place where I’m going to have to make my own fun for the foreseeable future. It’s still a role-playing game, and for now I’m focusing on the things that enhance my ability to do that. Character appearance changes, which can now be done at any time, is a bright spot for detail-oriented folks like yours truly.

I’m pure shit at face creation, of course, but that’s not what this is about. Since Fallout 76 allows me to customize my looks without visiting a plastic surgeon (as was the case in Fallout 4) I’ve made this a supporting element of my personal narrative. It all started in that initial creation screen where I was given the chance to create my character’s Vault 76 ID.

Yes, his namesake is West Virginia’s most famous son.
Screenshot via Bethesda Game Studios

For continuity’s sake, unless you’re talking about someone born in Vault 76 (always plausible, and the Overseeer mentions Vault babies on her terminal), then my guy would go in as a young man and then age 25 years. So I created him with the idea that this initial ID would be the one he received on his first day. Then, once he stepped outside, I’d turn him into an old coot who spent the best years of his life underground with a bunch of insufferable academics, military officers and assorted over-achievers.

From there, as he leveled up out in Appalachia, I’d give him more damage, more injuries and grime or, hell, take it off as he recovered or cleaned up. This made more sense to me than giving him waster hair and long stitched-up scars right out of the box for his official Vault photo.

So, once Dr. Elwood (I didn’t create him that way, but he came to look very doctor-ly to me) emerged. I did this to him. Never mind how he’d update his ID on the outside. Let’s retcon a label printer into his Pip-Boy.

Vice chairman of the Flatwoods Planning and Zoning Board
Screenshot via Bethesda Game Studios

That was the best I could do for a receding hairline, and I put a little weight on his face and neck. I figured he would be between 50 and 53 years old on Reclamation Day. Old, but not infirm and incapable of fending for himself outside. He’s also clean shaven. That’s gonna change quick. The lighting isn’t great, but he went in with the “sun-kissed” skin tone and now he’s gone full pale, with “steel gray” hair, consequences of not seeing blue sky in a quarter century. This means he’s gonna burn pretty easy, too.

Talk to your doctor and ask if Psychotats are right for you. (Side effects include -3% water, +3 PER.)
Screenshot via Bethesda Game Studios

Here he is at level 4. Not much to change about him except to give him some redness (there’s a burned skin tone that you can adjust from 1 to 100 percent) and leather up his face a little. I took the weight off his cheeks now that he’s living off the land and eating varmint, probably not enjoying or metabolizing that very well. He’s got some stubble going too.

Screenshot via Bethesda Game Studios

Encounters with Wild Mongrels and Feral Ghouls have scratched Dr. Elwood up pretty good here. He also forgot to take his glasses off for this shot. I blackened up his eyes a little to accentuate his weight loss. All things considered, he doesn’t look too bad.

Screenshot via Bethesda Game Studios

This is better lighting to show off his scrapes and beard, but not his wrinkles, so he looks almost younger in this shot. Still can’t ditch the fisherman’s overalls and hip waders. I like them better than the utility jump suits with those popped collars.

Screenshot via Bethesda Game Studios

At this point I started thinking that fussing with Dr. Elwood every level would either unreasonably alter his appearance too frequently, or make changes so subtle as to not be worthwhile. The lighting is also really crappy where I took this (inside the Flatwoods church, at night). Here’s a better shot of what he looks like at this point.

Now we’re talking. Some bags under the eyes, some forehead abrasions, and an inconsistent attempt to sculpt a beard. Still has a lot more hair than I do. But for now, I cut back and focused on doing things that might actually get him more bedraggled. Even with the crap lighting inside the church in Flatwoods, though, I can tell he’s a lot different from the young man on the inside. Then I looked up and realized I’d hit level 14. That called for dramatic changes:

Not yet Tom Hanks-in-Castaway, but getting there. He’s got the trench warfare spattering and some radiation dust, plus all of his dents and scratches have been turned up to 100 percent, to go with that wastelander’s beard and hairdo. I dialed up the sunburning and made sure the forehead, cheeks, mouth and neck were all their most wrinkled options. Then, after he found his perfect C.A.M.P. site, I figured that would be the time when he would have his first shave in a good while and clean up a little.

I think I perfected the “burnout high school wood shop teacher” look here.
Screenshot via Bethesda Game Studios

Here’s a better view:

Screenshot via Bethesda Game Studios

He’s seen a lot of life on the outside but he doesn’t look like a completely deranged hobo. Yet. There are still some real freakazoid haircuts left to explore. Although, when he joins the Brotherhood (or whatever faction) he’ll probably shave his head. There was also a really big throwdown with some Super Mutants between Helvetia and Flatwoods that I felt deserved some damage in the latest face rearrangement. So once this guy takes on a Snallygaster or the Grafton Monster I will need to break his nose or give it a nasty gouge.

I’ll periodically update this post as Dr. Elwood progresses, and hopefully, even into level 60 and beyond, I’ll pull off a credible progression of a mid-life survivalist scratching out his existence in a hostile environment. But as far as giving myself a guy who went into Vault 76 in the prime of his life and lost it all there, I think it’s mission accomplished.

I can’t ignore the shortcomings of Fallout 76 and won’t suggest others do so, either, but I’m glad I can find one small thing that helps me focus on what I do enjoy, which is role-playing and spinning an emergent narrative of my hero in this world.

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