5e: Hacking the Game—Fallout, Part III

Fifth Edition Fallout

Since this series was completed, the reskins and rules discussed have been compiled into a single sourcebook I’ve called Fifth Edition Fallout, which also includes new additions conceived after the conclusion of the series, as well as a bestiary of wasteland creatures! You can find Fifth Edition Fallout, a starter adventure called A Date With the Queen, and several resources including a tailor-made character sheet over at the Fifth Edition Fallout hub page.

This is the third in a series of articles discussing how we might hack 5th edition D&D to allow us to play games set in the Fallout setting.

You can find the previous entries in this series here: Part I, Part II.

This time round, we’ll be looking at what classes we want to use and how to make them work in the setting.

But before we move on to the main topic of this article, I want to briefly discuss the future of this series.

The Roadmap of Things to Come

Pipboy Map (Screenshot from Fallout 4 © Bethesda Softworks)

Up until now, I’ve not given you guys any indication of what I’ll be covering and when. Part of the reason for that was that any plans I do make can’t be considered concrete. For instance, this article was meant to be second but ended up getting pushed back a week when I realised I had something that needed to be covered first.

However, I think it will be helpful to everyone (me too), If I provide an idea of where I plan to take this series. The list below lays out my current planned order for the series. The order is fairly settled now, and first drafts of approximately half of it have already been written. Even so, treat this as a rough guide rather than a guarantee. The order may still be subject to change.

  • Part I covered some key concepts and rules hacks that are essential for playing in the world of Fallout. It also explored racial bonuses for various playable races.
  • Part II was inserted into the order at the last minute to continue exploring important concepts I’d neglected in Part I.
  • Part III (this part) is about classes and archetypes: which fit, which don’t, and some thoughts about reskins to broaden our available options.
  • Part IV covers weapons tables for approximately half of the setting’s ranged weapons: Pipe Guns, Ballistic Pistols, Ballistic Rifles, and Shotguns. I’ll go over some new weapon properties, and alterations to the way existing weapon properties work.s. You’ll also get descriptions of any special properties associated with these weapons, including the effects of various syringes that can be fired from the syringer rifle.
  • Part V will conclude the necessarily lengthy category of “ranged weapons”. It will include weapons tables and special properties descriptions for Heavy Weapons, Energy Weapons, and Miscellaneous Weapons. It’ll also include the Ammunition table as well as the costs and special properties of all Ranged Weapon Modifications.
  • Part VI will go on to look at Melee Weapons, Melee Weapon Modifications, Explosives, and Traps.
  • Part VII will be about personal armour and power armour.
  • Part VIII will discuss miscellaneous other things relating to equipment and inventory such as: optional legendary modifications, computers and pip boys, and a discussion regarding Fallout‘s cap based economy. If the article isn’t already running long and if I can spare the time to do so, I may also try to provide an alternative setting appropriate trinket table.
  • Part IX will finally move the series beyond equipment, to take a look at the game’s Skills, and we’ll probably revisit classes to talk about class proficiencies at this time.
  • Part X will be about backgrounds.
  • Part XI will be about feats.
  • Part XII and beyond will be custom monsters and NPC statblocks. As with items, I suspect that there will be so much to do here that it will extend to multiple articles. However, by this point all the essentials will have been covered and anyone wishing to run a game should have everything they need, and be able to reskin D&D monsters to get started (eg. ogres for super mutants, ghouls for feral ghouls, warforged for synths, etc.). I’ll try to cover a decent selection of common enemies in the first of these monster articles. After that I will likely slow down production of Fallout hack related articles, returning to other topics for the most part and releasing new Fallout monsters every three or four weeks.

A Quick Note about Archetypes

In this article I’ve gone over every published archetype for each suitable class that I’m aware of (though only 2 3rd party classes/archetypes are discussed in relation to unarmed character builds). This includes the archetypes from Unearthed Arcana, which are a mixed bag balance-wise. That’s the only warning I’m going to give on that subject. This is not the place to analyse their game balance, and I won’t be doing so. I’m simply looking at them from the perspective of whether or not we can make them fit into our setting.

It should also be noted that my thoughts on the archetypes from Unearthed Arcana are based on the most current versions of those archetypes currently available at the time of this article’s release.

Excluded Classes

The first thing to establish is what classes don’t fit. Doing so will eliminate a large number of possibilities, so we can focus on what’s left.

No Magic

It’s an obvious thing to say, but the world of Fallout is one that is largely without magic. I say “largely” because it’s not without some supernatural influence. The Dunwich Building from Fallout 3, and Dunwich Borers and the Cabot House from Fallout 4 spring to mind.

There is also some precedent in the world for psychic powers: the Master and Lorenzo Cabot are examples of this. However, these are exceptionally rare and never put in the hands of the protagonist of the games. By the same token, we can rule psychic powers out for player characters in our tabletop game.

Naturally, this means that we could theoretically rule out the following core classes right from the get go:

  • Bard
  • Cleric
  • Druid
  • Bard
  • Paladin
  • Ranger (the default magical version, at least)
  • Sorcerer
  • Warlock
  • Wizard

We’re also not likely to want to use the Artificer, the Mystic, or the Rune Mage prestige class from Unearthed Arcana.

Now, there’s an obvious potential issue here. Supposedly, D&D 5e characters are supposed to have 6-8 encounters in the adventuring day (I personally think this is an unrealistically high number and wish they’d balanced the edition with less but harder encounters in mind, but I digress). Without the magic using classes, the ability to heal damage will be at an all time premium, and the ability to restore a good portion of the hit points lost during fights is essential if characters are to be expected to handle a lot of encounters.

But this may or may not be an actual problem. From the design point of view there are two simple solutions, and one much harder one. However, the simple solutions are simple for me, the designer, precisely because they put the responsibility on the Game Master.

Easy option 1 is for the GM to ensure that the party always has a generous supply of stimpaks (the Fallout universe’s cure potion, essentially). This requires the GM to regularly hand out stimpaks, and also to keep track of the party’s usage so they know how much and how often to give them out. Another potential negative of this option is that a generous supply of stimpaks flies in the face of the theme of supply scarcity which we discussed last week.

Easy option 2 is to recommend that the GM design their sessions with the understanding that Fallout characters can survive far fewer encounters per day due to lack of healing. That may or may not be a problem, depending on how the GM wants to approach the matter. Instead of 6-8 encounters, I would expect characters without healing to manage 2-3 encounters, maybe 4 at a push. This is a workable solution, and would be easier on the GM than option 1. Their party might be able to handle more or less depending on the characters, so it would require some attention on their part to fine tune an “adventuring day” that works for their group, and they’d have to keep on top of how that balance might change whenever the party levels.

The hard option is to design a new class or redesign an old one so that it can provide the party adequate healing, with a non-magical explanation for that ability. If we’re going to do that, we need to think about what conceptual space exists to design for.

After you remove all the magic using classes from consideration, what we’ve been left with are a selection of couple of warrior classes plus the rogue. To be honest, “warrior” or “rogue” describes a high percentage of Fallout player character builds, as well as NPCs. But I think there’s room for at least a few more character types. I would propose that the game could support a leader-type class, to represent mercenary officers, raider gang leaders, town mayors, cult leaders, and the like. There is also conceptual room for some sort of scientist class.

Ideally we want to reskin a class rather than build a new one from the ground up, so we need to consider which of the classes available to us are closest to those archetypes. Probably the Bard for our “leader” and the Artificer for our “scientist”.

Now I’m not saying we’ll come up with a workable hack for either class, but we should at least return them to our list for consideration.

Thematic Inappropriateness

We can also exclude the Monk class. Whatever themes Fallout has, wuxia-style martial arts isn’t one of them. We might want to think about support for unarmed fighting, however. As unlikely a survival strategy as it seems, it is possible to build effective unarmed protagonists in Fallout. Fortunately, I already made an archetype for that (or check out the Pugilist class, one of my favourite 3rd party creations.

What We’re Left With

The following core classes remain after our exclusions: Barbarian, Fighter, and Rogue. We’ve also established that we might be interested in a nomagical version of the Ranger, if we can find or build a decent take on that idea (spoiler: there is no discussion of the Ranger below, because I’ve not seen a take on the non-magical ranger that I’ve liked, and because there are “scout” archetypes for the Fighter and Rogue class which fit the bill conceptually. But if you know of one you like, then you might choose to allow it in your game). We have also decided that we want to take a look at re-theming the Bard and the Artificer, though we’re not sure yet if anything will come of it.

This list of classes might seem sparse, but it’s in keeping with the setting and is simply a reality of a non-magical world. Without supernatural powers, there are less things to separate one character from another. In our tabletop Fallout game, we’ll be relying on archetypes as well as feat and skill choices to do a lot of this heavy lifting. We’ll also need for our players to create characters with distinct themes, so that the potential for overlap in archetype, feat, and skill choices is reduced. With that in mind, character creation should probably be something done as a group, so everyone can make informed choices.


At this point, it’s worth noting that we may need to alter the proficiencies granted by the various classes. However, this isn’t something we can decide at this point. We’ll need to look at the skill list and the tools available to player characters (skills and inventory will be covered in later instalments in this series), and then we can revisit this issue.

The Barbarian

Disciple Raider, a Barbarian (Screenshot from Fallout 4 Nuka World DLC © Bethesda Softworks)

There’s nothing explicitly magical about the Barbarian’s core class features, and all of them might be equally useful in Fallout as they would in any other setting. Just as with unarmed, melee weapon builds are firmly supported by Fallout’s setting, and there are certainly people (and super mutants) in the wastelands with anger management issues, so the Barbarian has a clear place.

Path of the Berserker

There’s nothing problematic about this archetype. The one thing to note is that Mindless Rage might be a little weaker than normal given there likely aren’t a large number of creatures in the setting capable of causing the charmed condition. Of course, the power of this feature and others like it are always subjective in any case, depending on what enemies the GM ends up using against the PCs. All in all then, the archetype probably needs no tweaking, though it’s something the GM should keep in mind. If the archetype seems weak in play, a minor adjustment might be made.

Path of the Totem Warrior

If you remove the spiritual elements from this archetype, it almost works. Take away the fluff from the Totem Spirit, Aspect of the Beast, and Totemic Attunement features, and they just become upgrades worthy of a rage-fueled wasteland survivalist. Removing the Spirit Seeker feature altogether is not going to significantly affect the archetypes balance—it’s one that 5e’s designers refer to as a ribbon ability, one that’s there for flavour, not potency.

The only real problem is the Spirit Walker ability. There’s no easy way to explain how a character in Fallout might gain the knowledge granted by the Commune with Nature spell. The trouble is what to replace it with. Unlike Spirit Seeker, which is one of a pair of 3rd level features, Spirit Walker is the only thing this archetype gets at 10th level, so it needs to be replaced with something. Plus, while Commune with Nature doesn’t boost a character in a mechanical way, it’s also a little bit more than a ribbon given how much useful information it can give you. It needs to be replaced with something functionally useful, but that doesn’t have significant mechanical impact. How about we borrow the 10th level ability “Consult the Spirits” from Unearthed Arcana’s Path of the Ancestral Guardian? If we rename this to something like “Primal Intuition”, we should be good to go.

Primal Intuition. Right before you make an Intelligence or a Wisdom check, you can give yourself advantage on the check. You can use this feature three times, and you regain expended uses when you finish a long rest.

Path of the Battlerager

This archetype from the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide is an oddly specific barbarian variant exclusively for dwarves who like to bear hug people while wearing spiked armour.

As weird and niche as it is, there’s nothing in the archetype to prevent someone from using it in a Fallout game, provided the racial restriction is ignored. There’s even precedent in Fallout for spiked armour.

Other Archetypes

This following archetypes from Unearthed Arcana are unfortunately too mystical to be of much use: Path of the Ancestral Guardian, Path of the Storm Herald, and Path of the Zealot.

The Fighter

MacCready, a Fighter (Screenshot from Fallout 4 © Bethesda Softworks)

The Fighter is about as non-supernatural and generic a class as exists in 5e, so there’s no issue with any of the core class features.


The Champion is an archetype that fits just as well in the wastelands of post-apocalyptic America as it does in fantastical lands such as the Forgotten Reams.

Battle Master

Likewise, there’s no reason the Battle Master can’t work in our Fallout game.

Fist Fighter

The Fist Fighter archetype I created works just fine for characters taking their brand of pugilism to the Wastes!

Cait, a Fist Fighter (Screenshot from Fallout 4 © Bethesda Softworks)

Monster Hunter

For the most part, this archetype from Unearthed Arcana works. The only feature that doesn’t is Hunter’s Mysticism. I’d suggest replacing it with something similar to the 3rd level feature of the Arcane Archer, gaining proficiency in two skills from a limited list.

For instance:

Skilled Hunter.At 3rd level, you learn some skills that help you in your dangerous career. You gain proficiency in two skills from the following list: Acrobatics, Athletics, Investigation, Medicine, Nature, Perception, Stealth, or Survival.

Purple Dragon Knight

This archetype from the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide could represent any kind of militant leader, such as an officer from the Brotherhood of Steel.


While it might seem a strange conceptual fit, there’s actually nothing in the mechanics of this Unearthed Arcana archetype that would prohibit its use. There is probably a place in the quirky world of Fallout for a wanderer who strives to emulate the samurai of old; alternatively, the archetype’s abilities could be used but divorced from the fluff.


Not only does this archetype from Unearthed Arcana fit perfectly, it’s also a good answer to the “spell-less ranger” theme we were looking for.


This Unearthed Arcana archetype is another perfect fit.

Other Archetypes

The following archetypes from the Player’s Handbook and Unearthed Arcana are not a good fit for the setting: Arcane Archer, Cavalier, Eldritch Knight, Knight.

The Rogue

Piper, a Rogue (Screenshot from Fallout 4 © Bethesda Softworks)

The Rogue is yet another class the core features of which work as is.


This archetype is largely fine, other than its Use Magic Device feature (if you’ll forgive me a slight tangent, this is a pretty odd feature for a “thief” archetype in any case, don’t you think?). Obviously, there won’t be any magic devices to use. Use Magic Device is not a major feature in terms of its balance impact—it opens up more options, rather than representing a direct increase in power. It would be fine to replace it with something relatively minor. Here’s a possible substitute feature found on the internet:

Improvise. By 13th level, you are experienced enough in your trade that you can craft the tools and weapons you need from any items that are available. You no longer need tools to add your proficiency bonus to any ability check that normally uses those tools. You also gain proficiency with improvised weapons.


No real problems here. Substitute the “25 gp” cost of establishing a false identity using Infiltrator Expertise for “25 caps”, and no other changes should be necessary.


The only feature that doesn’t fit from this Unearthed Arcana archetype is its Ear for Deceit. Although it’s not exactly on theme, the Misdirection feature of the Mastermind archetype might be a useful substitution here. The Inquisitive could use a defensive feature.

Nick, an Inquisitive Rogue (Screenshot from Fallout 4 © Bethesda Softworks)


Every feature of this archetype from the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide other than its last, Soul of Deceit, works just fine. Why not substitute in the Inquisitive’s 17th level feature, Eye for Weakness?


Unearthed Arcana presented this version of a Scout archetype for the Rogue. It works just fine for our purposes and, like the one for the Fighter, it is a possible solution to a spell-less ranger.


A dashing rogue might not be the obvious fit for Fallout, but like many of these concepts this archetype from the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide could be an interesting fit for a quirkier character with a taste for theatrics.

Other Archetypes

The following archetype from the Player’s Handbook is not a good fit for the setting: Arcane Trickster.

The Artificer

Curie, an Artificer (Screenshot from Fallout 4 © Bethesda Softworks)

We decided that the Artificer class might be a good fit for a “scientist” type, but even a quick glance at the class table suggests significant problems to overcome if we want this to work.

The first level Magic Item Analysis feature is largely a ribbon. We could just handwave that our scientist hack doesn’t have this.

The second level feature Wondrous Invention is a much more significant hurdle. Even with the often weird science of the Fallout world there are, at best, a scant handful of the listed magic items that I could conceive of a setting appropriate reskin for.

The class’ spellcasting is, ironically, far less of a problem. Many of the spells on the list could conceivably represent the effects of a chem the character has brewed up or a wonder of engineering. Likewise, a reskin of the Infuse Magic feature can work as is.

Superior Attunement (and by extension, the later Soul of Artifice) is less of a problem feature than it might appear. While Fallout doesn’t have magic items, Fallout 4 introduced the idea of legendary properties. These were effects that could apply to weapons and armour that made them stronger, granted them elemental properties, etc. Essentially, they fill the same conceptual space as magic items. When I talk about equipment later, I intend to present legendary items as an option. The short version of that coverage is basically that any GM who wishes to introduce them to the game should simply find a level appropriate magic item that they can reskin with some pseudo-science babble. Therefore, if you allow a player to take the Artificer class in your Fallout game, you are essentially promising them that during their career they will encounter at least enough legendary items to fill all their attunement slots. By extension, your other players will also probably want to get their hands on some. However, if you want to limit these items only to the artificer, then remember that the artificer only extends their attunment slots to 3, 4, and then 6 because all characters normally get 3. If you’re not letting any other character get this kind of item, then at 5th level the artificer should be getting one attunement slot, at 15th level they’ll get their second, and at 20th level they’ll attain a third. If only artificers are allowed to acquired legendary items, you might also consider saying that they make these custom items themselves at the levels they earn the attunement slots, giving them a pre-approved list of level appropriate items to select from. As with many features, they may be able to switch out an item for a new one of the same rarity when they gain a level.

Mechanical Servant works just fine, although in an ideal world I’m not sure it would be a scientist core feature, but rather part of an engineer archetype. But this isn’t an ideal world, it’s a system hack that we’re trying to keep as straightforward as possible. We can just imagine that any character who wouldn’t make a robot of their own might find one somewhere who can act as their servant or bodyguard. If the player isn’t invested in this feature this might be a great opportunity for the GM to insert a well-loved robot NPC into the party.


This archetype works just fine as it is. In fact, this is the archetype we’re really the most interested in given that a big reason we’re considering this class in the first place is the need for healing options such as the Healing Draught. Obviously the exact nature of each alchemical formula needs to be reskinned, but that’s easily done in all cases.


By the name alone you’d think this archetype would be a good fit for Fallout. It could be, but it’s concept of creating a magical gun that can eventually do a bit of everything (thunder damage, lightning damage, force damage and knockback effects, armour penetration, and area explosion damage) is very niche in the Fallout universe where all these effects have to be explained by science (albeit pseudo-science) and not magic. At least a few of these effects belong to completely different weapon types, eg. some of them are ballistic weapon properties while others are more appropriate for energy weapons, so without magic as an explanation we’re left with the slightly odd concept we’re talking about a tinkerer who is trying to build the ultimate multi-barreled swiss army gun. I’d probably allow it if a player really wanted it, with the caveat that the “thunder cannon” can be upgraded only by these archetype features and is exempt from the weapon modification rules I intend to use.

The Bard

Nate and Nora, Bards (Screenshot from Fallout 4 © Bethesda Softworks)

For anyone who’s managed to get this far into this series of articles but who hasn’t played Fallout 4 (fans of the original games but not the more recent Bethesda games, perhaps?), Nate and Nora are the canonical names of the male and female options for the “Sole Survivor”, the avatar of the player in the game.

So, cards on the table, Nate and Nora could technically be members of any class, depending on how you as the player build them. Why have I chosen them to represent the Bard? Because our reskinned Bard is going to be a leader, and there’s no one in the game better than Nate and Nora themselves to represent someone who can take charge and inspire greatness in others.

First things first, I’d probably change the class’ proficiencies so that it isn’t required to take any musical instruments, let alone three. I’d suggest increasing the bar’ds proficient skills to four and giving them proficiency in two tools, games, or instruments.

Unlike the Artificer, spellcasting is going to be a big problem. The bard has a much wider variety of spells, and a far greater number that it’d be difficult or impossible to reskin.

My proposed solution to this is to remove spellcasting altogether and replace it with a pool of points that the character can spend on a small set of abilities. I’m using the Bard spell Dissonant Whispers as my basis for figuring out how many of these points the class should have as it is (I believe) the highest damage 1st level bard spell. It deals 3d6 psychic damage, and increases by 1d6 per spell level slot. If we say each d6 is directly worth one point, and figure out how many d6 of damage total the bard could deal at every level if it used every spell slot of every spell level on Dissonant Whispers, when we convert those d6 into points we have… an unmanageably high number of points, frankly.

But what if we were to say we wanted the point pool to refresh every short rest? We could base the amount of d6/points on the spell slots of the only short rest full caster (the warlock) instead. We have to make a minor assumption here regarding the value of the warlock’s mystic arcanum slots, since they are only per long rest. The assumption I’m making is that the party might have an average of 2 short rests per day, meaning that the point value of a long rest slot when converted into short rests is 1/3rd of it’s actual value.

Command Points

Bard Level
3 (max 3)
3 (max 3)
8 (max 4)
8 (max 4)
15 (max 5)
15 (max 5)
24 (max 6)
24 (max 6)
35 (max 7)
35 (max 7)
37 (max 8)
37 (max 8)
39 (max 9)
39 (max 9)
41 (max 10)
41 (max 10)
44 (max 11)
44 (max 11)
47 (max 12)
47 (max 12)

The feature that goes along with this resource is as follows:

Command. At 1st level, you can instil fear in the hearts of your enemies or berate and mock them for their cowardice, or instead you can soothe the spiritual hurts of your allies.

You have access to a pool of command points which you can spend to damage enemies and heal allies. The amount of command points you possess is determined by your level in the bard class, as shown in the Command column of the Command Points table. Your bard level also determines the maximum amount of command points you can spend at once on any single action, and is also shown in the Command column.

Some command abilities available to you require the target to make a Will saving throw. The DC of your command abilities equals 8 + your Proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier.

To spend your command points, use one of the following actions on your turn:

  • choose one hostile intelligent creature within 60 feet of you that you are aware of and that can hear you. That creature must make a Will saving throw or take 1d6 psychic damage per command point spent on this action.
  • choose one allied intelligent creature within 60 feet of you that you are aware of and that can hear you (including yourself). That creature is healed 1d4 hit points per command point spent on this action.
  • choose a number of intelligent creatures per command point spent within 30 feet of you that you are aware of and that can hear you. All targets must make a Will saving throw, becoming charmed by you for 1 hour and treating you as a friendly acquaintance if they fail. A target automatically succeeds on their saving throw if you or your companions are fighting it. The target reacts normally to hostile actions and speech after the effect, but remains charmed by you if you yourself remain nonhostile and don’t side with your allies. If you take a hostile action against a target or side with an ally who does, the effect ends on all targets who are present to witness your betrayal.
  • choose a number of intelligent creatures per command point spent within 30 feet of you that you are aware of and that can hear you. All targets must make a Will saving throw, becoming frightened of you for up to 1 minute. The target may repeat its saving throw at the end of each of its turns.

Spent command points are regained after the successful conclusion of a short or long rest.

You might wonder why the healing option uses d4s rather than d6s. This is because the 1st level Cure Wounds spell has a range of touch, but thematically it makes most sense if this ability can be used at range. Therefore, it made sense to me to use the range 60 spell Healing Word as an indication of what dice to use (it uses a d4 + Charisma.

Incidentally, there’s no earthly reason you couldn’t use this alternative if you ever fancied playing a non-magical bard/leader type in a typical game of D&D.

Bardic Inspiration and Song of Rest probably need reskinning as inspiration speech, friendly chats, etc. rather than necessarily involving music. Likewise, countercharm needs to simply represent stirring speech.

The two spells known gained through Magical Secrets at 10th, 14th, and 18th level are obviously out of the question. The value of these features could be considered low given they only add more spell options of the same levels bards already have access to. However, they are not quite ribbon abilities, because the spells chosen could be powerful and add great utility to a bard’s options. We therefore want to replace them with abilities that similarly add utility to our alternative bard without necessarily being a significant power booster. Here are some thoughts:

Strong Leadership.Starting at 10th level, you bolster your own spirit so that you can remain strong for the sake of your allies. When you roll initiative at the beginning of a combat you can spend a number of command points up to your maximum command per use and grant yourself 1d4 temporary hit points per command point spent. If they are not lost beforehand, you lose your temporary hit points when you take a long rest.

This is useful, because it effectively lets the character use some of their command points to heal in advance. But it also has all the usual point costs, and can be used only on themselves. In the larger scheme,the character is only capable of the same amount of healing. I think the ability ticks the right boxes.

Heroic Inspiration. By 18th level, whenever you have temporary hit points, your any ally rolling bonus motivation dice or song of rest dice that you granted roll 2d6 instead of 1d12.

This is another clear though minor boost; taking the average of either type of roll up by 1 point.

I haven’t created a replacement ability for level 14. I’m not certain it’s necessary as the two replacement abilities I’ve already given are fairly decent. And, as I’ve mentioned, there’s a question mark over how much of a boost in power Magical Secrets actually is. Finally the level isn’t even a dead one that needs filling as the Bard gets their final archetype ability at 14th level anyway.

College of Lore

The College of Lore from the Player’s Handbook is largely fine, except for the fact it’s giving away a fourth flipping instance of Magical Secrets. This definitely has to be replaced with something, otherwise the character gets no 6th level ability. How about:

Helping Hand. Whenever you take the Help action, as well as rolling their ability check or attack roll with advantage the creature you are aiding adds half your Proficiency bonus (rounded down) to their roll.

Furthermore, if the ability check you help with involved one of the creature’s proficient skills, you become proficient in that skill. If you are already proficient, you gain expertise with the skill (doubling your proficiency bonus).

You may choose to replace this bonus skill proficiency with whatever skill is used each subsequent time you use the Help action, or to keep the skill you currently have. You lose the bonus skill proficiency altogether at the conclusion of your next long rest.

Scribe Haylen, a College of Lore Bard (Screenshot from Fallout 4 © Bethesda Softworks)

College of Valor

This archetype from the Player’s Handbook has only one minor issue: the 14th level feature Battle Magic is obviously no good since our version of the bard doesn’t have spells. But it does have a spellcasting equivalent feature! We simply need to change this so that the character can make an attack as a bonus action after spending command points during their action and we should be golden.

College of Glamour

The abilities of this college from Unearthed Arcana stretch credulity because their original flavour is magical. You could definitely reskin the effects as being non-magical and the character as simply ridiculously charismatic, but I think this is one for the GM to decide for themselves.

College of Satire

This archetype from Unearthed Arcana is almost fine, but the 6th level feature Fool’s Insight is simply too magical. One approach would be to slot the same replacement feature we came up with for the College of Lore in here too. But maybe helpful is exactly the opposite of what we want? Perhaps a mirror reflection of the Help action might be a better conceptual fit:

Harry. As an action, you can harass a creature with words, distressing sounds, and hostile gestures. The target creature gains disadvantage on the next ability check it makes to perform a task. Alternatively, you can harry a hostile creature within 30 feet that can see or hear you. The first attack roll the creature makes is made at disadvantage unless the attack is directed at you.

College of Swords

Change the bonus proficiency of this martial-focused college from Unearthed Arcana from a scimitar (which would likely be exceedingly rare to find in the Fallout setting) to a setting-appropriate martial finesse weapon dealing d6 damage. Looking ahead to the melee weapons I’ll be publishing in a few weeks, I can see that the baton and the combat knife fit these criteria. Or you could make something up (or let your player) to fit the bill.

The solution to the 14th level Battle Magic feature that this archetype shares with the College of Valor has already been discussed under that archetype.

Other Archetypes

The first two features of the College of Whispers from Unearthed Arcana are reskinnable, but the latter two are overtly magical. I wouldn’t recommend its use without some serious homebrewing of its features.

Other Classes

Obviously I can’t look over all the 3rd party classes and archetypes, but for punching and grapple builds I’d recommend the Pugilist, a firm favourite of mine. Most of it’s archetypes would work well except perhaps the luchadors of the Arena Royale archetype. The Bloodhound Bruiser might be an excellent alternative to the Inquisitive for building a detective like Nick Valentine. It might be worth your while looking at some of the many gunslinger options on DMsGuild (including that famous one by Matt Mercer) though personally I think the martial classes we already have cover ranged combat well enough and gunslinger is probably a class concept most useful in worlds where guns are very rare. Your mileage may vary.

It may well be that Wizards will eventually release new classes that might fit the bill too. Time will tell.

Next Time

In the next article of this series, we’ll be thinking about firearms.

Over To You

Do you agree with my analysis of the classes and archetypes that will or won’t work for Fallout? Perhaps you have your own ideas for replacement features you’d like to share or have an idea for making an archetype I ruled out work? Let me know in the comments!