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Tips and Tricks for Fallout: New Vegas

by Roger Bourke White Jr., copyright September 2011


Here are some techniques that I have found work well in playing Fallout: New Vegas. I would like to acknowledge the help of my good friends and fellow players Martin Prier and Richard Block. They helped me get started with Fallout and showed me some of the tips and techniques outlined here.

Basic Play Style

First let me explain how I like to play:

o I find that sneaking around, and standing off while I shoot stuff works is a satisfying play style for me. I take my first shot at long distance using the V.A.T.S. feature -- typically taking a shot if I can get above 30% hit chance. Then I keep shooting as the target charges, with V.A.T.S. when I can. If the enemy has good range damage ability I then move behind a corner of some sort after the first volley and force it to charge if it wants do damage. I then blast it further at close range with V.A.T.S. as it rounds the corner.

Combat tip:

Taking one long shot then moving behind a wall works other wonders: Your enemies will charge, one-by-one, and come running around the corner... perfect targets for VATS. You will stack the bodies deep.

I call this Sneak Killing. Use this technique and you don't need to wear any personal armor. (but do pick up the Toughness perks when they come up as you level)

o I also like working the story line, so I talk to people and I like solving problems with talk.

o Finally, I like acquiring wealth.

Given the above, I emphasize three skills: a single weapon skill, sneak, and speech.

As secondary skills I invest in science and barter. I have found that in addition to their primary uses they can give additional choices when talking with NPC's, so they are adding to speech effectiveness.

At the third level I find repair and medicine are useful. Repair's big value is lightening the loot load after a big battle -- repairing stuff combines items which reduces the weight being carried. This lowers the weight of your clothing, armor and weapons cargo. Medicine improves the efficiency of your healing, offers more NPC conversation choices, and can solve one or two sub-quests.

Lockpick is heavily overlapped with science, so it's nice but not necessary. For instance, many safes have a controlling terminal nearby which science can solve. Likewise, I found survival not too useful -- the fabricated stuff made with this skill was not particularly valuable so it didn't add much to wealth or combat ability. Both Lockpick and Survival can be boosted to the 25-30 range to get some of the basic abilities, such as unlocking common ammo boxes and making gecko steaks, but that's about all they need to be for the first half of the game.

As a weapon skill I took energy weapons. I chose it mostly for KISS reasons (Keep It Simple) -- the complexity of weapon and ammo choices that comes with small guns in New Vegas didn't add anything to the game for me. Energy weapons are effective at all ranges and there are fewer choices to contend with. The downside of picking energy weapons is finding ammo during the beginning game. You have to watch your supply, watch your weapon condition, scavenge efficiently, and develop a wide range of merchant contacts as one of your first objectives.

Advanced Energy Weapon Tips

If you're in Hardcore mode, make the Recharger Pistol your first choice weapon. (Use the Recharger Rifle until you can find a pistol. Chet at Goodsprings often has the rifle for sale.)

The easiest place to find a wide selection of energy weapons is on the numerous Bright Brotherhood ghoul corpses at the REPCONN Test Site. What is on these corpses is random so there's no guarantee. If you don't find what you want there, check at the Van Graffs' shop in Freeside.

The big advantage of the rechargers is lowering your ammo carrying needs -- you don't carry any for this weapon and the ammo you carry for your other weapons can all be over-charge or max-charge so you get a whole lot of bang for your ammo-carrying buck.

Back the Recharger up with a Plasma Defender pistol. Use the Defender with max/over charge ammo on tough-skinned targets that resist Recharger hits.

The Q-35 matter modulator is another hot energy item. It's located at the REPCONN Headquarters. It's behind a tough-to-open door, but once you learn the "hoops to jump" at the site, you can get it by a much easier pathway and it becomes available to you at low level. (Hint: take the tour, get the ID on a desk in the last room, get a room key card in a briefcase the third floor, open a door on the second floor, jump through the hole in the floor to get to the Q-35.)

Finally, for deathclaws and the like, acquire the unique weapon YCS/186. You'll find it on one of the mercenaries at the unmarked Mercenary Camp at the edge of the map due north of Horowitz Farmstead in the northeast. This is a shotgun-like hunk of weapon with huge damage and ferocious knock back. It will two-shot deathclaws and Legionary death squad assassins if you're using max/overcharge ammo.


The Beginning Game

Picking your SPECIAL abilities

I like sneaking and talking so it would seem Perception and Charisma would both be valuable. But in fact Intelligence pays off even more because you pick up more skill points per level with higher Intelligence. So I start with 9 on Intelligence.

The surprisingly useful attribute is Endurance. You want 9 of this because in mid-game you can buy SPECIAL enhancements, just one of each, from Doctor Usanagi in the New Vegas Medical Clinic just east of Freeside and Crimson Caravan. How many you can get depends on your endurance.

Besides their basic abilities, SPECIALs also control which Perks you are offered. Many of the perks have a minimum SPECIAL requirement, so know your perks and know their minimum SPECIAL requirements.

I take Luck down to 1, Intelligence and Endurance up to 9, and spread the rest of the points evenly between Strength, Perception, Charisma and Agility so I get a full perk spread available to me.

As skills I take Energy Weapons, Sneak and Speech.

And finally I take the two beginning tradeoffs that enhance accuracy over speed, and talk over weapon skill.

Basing out of Goodsprings

Goodsprings will be your base of operations for most of the beginning game. Thanks to Quick Walk it is always close, and from where you land with quick walk it's a short walk to:

o Chet, a good merchant (Good meaning he usually has a respectable amount of cash on hand to buy your loot, and he's available 24/7.)

o Work benches (located between the saloon and the general store)

o Doc Mitchell who will heal you up to full for 50 caps, which is a bargain compared to healing with food or stimpacs.

o Storage crates (next to the work benches)

o A bed (in the trailer nearby the work benches)

In Regular play mode this is all you need. In Hardcore, sleeping in a regular bed does not heal. You need a "bought bed" to heal while you sleep. This means that in Hardcore you see Doc Mitchell a lot more often, and you can't wait to get your free motel room offered by the adoring citizens in Novac when you finish enough quests for them. That has a bought bed. (Other bought beds that become useful are in the Atomic Wrangler in Freeside and the Lucky 38 on The Strip.)

In Hardcore you also need water. The most convenient rad-free water is at Goodsprings Source, a place which you find when you do the tutorial. It's also available in Doc Mitchell's bathroom, drink up when you heal up. Novac water has a bit of rad, but it's not too bad, so I drink up there once I have the free room.

So... the daily routine in Hardcore is: To get busted up in a fight, quick walk to a merchant to sell and buy, quick walk to Goodsprings and visit Doc Mitchell to get healed, drink water from his bathroom to refresh, sleep if needed and then drink some more at Goodsprings Source (it's faster than walking back to the Doc's house), then get on about saving the world again. Once you have the free motel room in Novac the daily routine changes to: Get busted up in a fight, buy and sell, go to Novac and sleep to heal and get well-rested (higher XP rate), drink from the room bathroom (and take the small radiation hit), then quick walk on to wherever you are saving the world next.

Establishing your Merchant Network

If you follow the early quests, those that lead to you confronting Benny in the Tops casino, the game will take you along a big "U" through Goodsprings, Primm, Nipton and Novac and will end you up at Freeside on the outskirts of New Vegas. This is a good route to follow even after you get some game experience because it will introduce you to the major wasteland merchants, and you are going to need their money. These are located in Goodsprings, Primm, Mojave Outpost (southwest of Nipton Rest Stop), and Novac. I have already talked about Chet, the Goodsprings merchant.

In Primm Johnson Nash is the merchant and Ruby Nash makes a dandy casserole from radscorpion glands. In Hardcore that casserole is a good food to carry around. (There are good radscorpion hunting grounds south of Nipton and in the valley next to the Goodsprings graveyard where you got buried at the start of the game.)

In Mojave Outpost you have Lacey, the merchant, and Maj. Knight who repairs weapons and clothes to 100%. Repairing is expensive, but the results are worth it and he's easy to reach.

In Novac you can get a free motel room (talked about earlier) and Cliff Briscoe is the merchant. Unlike the others, he is not available 24/7. A quick walk north of Novac is Gibson Junkyard, and Old Lady Gibson is both available 24/7 and has more cash than Cliff.

And finally, the "merchant with the mostest"... cash... is Vendortron at Gun Runners, the robot merchant located just south of Freeside East Entrance. As your loot flow grows he gets to be handier and handier.

As you become a proficient killer and looter, it is likely you will outrun the stationary merchants' cash supply in the early game. (Their cash supply goes up as the game progresses so it becomes sufficient in the later game.) When that happens either stow stuff or deal with the doctors, saloon keepers, and traveling merchants. (One of the traveler merchants has almost as much cash as Vendortron, so it pays to help them stay alive!) You can find traveling merchants most easily around Novac, some also show up around Mojave Outpost and east of Freeside East Entrance.

Spending your cash

Ammo and healing (and food and water in Hardcore) will be the bulk of your day-to-day purchasing. You will also spend on repairing weapons and armor.

After those purchases come the one-shots: better weapons, clothing and armor offered by some of the merchants.

And finally, at 4,000 caps a pop, SPECIAL enhancements from Doctor Usanagi at the New Vegas Medical Clinic. And in addition she offers a toughness enhancement at 8,000 and a regen enhancement at 12,000. Whew! 48,000 caps total... if you have the 9 Endurance attribute so you have the health to get the full package. If you want it all, you're going to have to watch your caps.

Relations with the various tribes

As you "follow the yellow brick road", many of your quests will be about establishing relations with the various tribes in the region. This means meeting tribal people and doing quests to curry their favor. I have found having good relations with NCR, the Great Khans, the people of Novac and Freeside are all helpful.

The Powder Gangers, Jackals, Fiends, and Vipers are good loot and XP sources. I keep them as enemies. However, you may want to stay on good terms with the Powder Gangers for a short while early in the game. Meyers, a Powder Ganger at the prison, makes a good replacement sheriff for Primm -- clear the bad guys out of Primm and talk to Meyers before you turn on the Powder Gangers. After you talk to Meyers there are a series of missions you can run for the Powder Gangers if you go to the prison HQ and talk with Eddie, their boss. That sets up some kind of relation with them. But... one of the second wave missions Eddie offers leads to betraying them to the NCR, who will then run a mission to suppress them and retake the prison. (A side note: When I'm on bad terms with the PGer's I have a "wake up exercise" in Hardcore mode. After I drink up from Goodsprings Source I run to nearby Jean Sky Diving and pop the two Powder Gang guards who repeatedly spawn there. Those guys never learn.)

As you get established in the Freeside area of New Vegas, a high value loot stream is to routinely raid the Fiend stronghold centered around Vault 3, just west of the Camp McCarrin entrance. Fiends regularly spawn in the blocks inside and outside the South Vegas Ruins entrance. They are lightly armored, recharger rifles and pistols do just fine on them, and many carry expensive energy weapons. Clearing the area becomes a satisfying cap-producing routine, however I did find that after I raided inside the South Vegas ruins a couple times, the gang spawn inside South Vegas Ruins would cluster around the entrance, making a tough fight as you walk through the door. You can outfox that spawn cluster by coming in through the entrance on the west side of the ruins and then picking them off in the usual manner.

The one group you have to think twice about antagonizing are the Caesar's Legions. They are not hard to stay neutral with, and that may be a good choice because of their "death squads". If you piss the Legion off, then they will spawn Assassin groups when you quick walk to some locations: notably the Nipton areas in the south, and Fields' Shack area just outside the Nellis Boomer area in the northeast. These assassin squads consist of four fast, heavily armored, and heavily weaponed men. They are hell on wheels.

But... if you are skillful in combat you may be able to turn this lemon into lemonade... because they are carrying about 2,000 caps each in loot. This is big. If you want lots of implants from Doctor Usanagi early in the game, you want to learn how to deal with the death squads.

The simplest tactic for dealing with death squads is disguise. If you dress as a Legionary before they close, the death squad will get confused and stand around rather than closing for a kill.

Another is to run away to some kind of sanctuary after they spawn. They will follow for a while, then get confused or distracted and give up, and then you can turn on them and pick them off one-by-one for cash and XP. It's tricky, but rewarding.

The three places I do this consistently are:

o quick walk to Nipton Rest Stop. Head north a bit until you see them coming, then run away towards Mohave Outpost and let them bang their heads on the NCR troopers up there. (Something to watch out for here is you don't want the death squads killing your traveling merchants.)

o quick walk to Francis' Shack next to the Nellis Boomers. Head south a bit, then run back to the road to Nellis. The assassins won't go near Nellis. When they get close, they turn back, and I pick them off one by one. This is the easiest place to conduct this tactic.

o quick walk to Cassidy's Burned Out Caravan south of the Camp McCarrin wall. Walk east a bit, then flee west towards the NCR troopers posted next to the wall. This spot is the sweetest because you can end up with a three-way free-for-all between Legion, NCR, Fiends and sometimes fire ants. Exciting and a nice lootfest afterwards.

After you get into the heart of New Vegas and confront Benny, the Legion will give you a chance for amnesty so you can make the ambush annoyance go away... for a while.

Advanced Tip: Other People's Battles

One way to up your loot stream is to scavenge corpses after other groups fight. Here are some places that happens:

o Outside the south and west walls of Camp McCarrin there are frequent fights between Fiends and NCR troops. Let them fight (join in if you like) and loot the corpses as they finish.

o Around Ranger Station Charlie (south of Novac) and in the hills east of it spawn a mix of animals, Vipers, and NCR and Legionary patrols. Wander around, listen for gunfire, and with practice you can track down where it's coming from.

o The traveling merchants get ambushed. Definitely join in and save them! You want them around! The sweet dessert for saving them is you can immediately sell to them what you loot from the corpses.

Traveling Cross Country

The game is somewhat disappointing in that you can't always get from Point A to Point B by going cross country. If you're getting the feeling that, "God didn't mean for you to go this way." that feeling is probably right.

But do indulge in cross country exploring, there are some interesting locations to be found, exotic plants to be picked, and tough monsters to encounter. But if you can't get up some cliff after you've tried in six different places, you probably can't get up that cliff. The place you are likely to encounter this obstacle first is at the REPCONN Test Site. There's a fascinating set of buildings on the hills above it, and they play an important role in the REPCONN quest, but you are not meant to visit them. I spent a couple of hours confirming this. <sigh> On the other hand, there are several sneaky shortcuts around the Black Mountain radio station and the twisty road that leads up there.

2nd Half Observations

The second half of the game begins after you have traveled to the heart of New Vegas, met Mr. House, and confronted Benny at the Tops casino. Whatever the outcome of those two encounters new quests open up that take you further east.

A couple of those threads will take you to The Fort, home of Caesar and much more. Interesting things can happen at The Fort so I'll tell you how I dealt with it.

The Fort

Mr. House, Caesar, and Benny (I let him live at our encounter in the casino) all want you to go to the Fort. I went at Caesar's invitation. I picked up a boat at Cottonwood Cove and had to give up weapons when I arrived. (Note: Once you have the invite from Caesar, a spot on the ground at the Cottonwood Cove dock can also get you there, and you don't have to give up weapons.) There I talked with Caesar and he invited me to head into a bunker to solve the mystery of what Mr. House was doing there, which not coincidentally, was a place Mr. House wanted me to go to get what was happening there fixed and running again. So far, so good.

When I went into the bunker I was given my weapons back to deal with the monsters within. So far, even better!

How you choose to solve the bunker mystery I leave up to you. The fun part is what to do when you are ready to leave. You can, if you do what you're told, give up your weapons again and finish your conversation with Caesar and Benny (if he's still alive at this point). Or you can say, "Screw this!" and defeat the Caesar's guards inside the bunker.

Not too hard to do, especially if you've gained some proficiency by dealing with the death squads in the first half of the game. But now you're deep in enemy territory and they are pissed. When you come out of the bunker the whole camp is hostile.

My first successful solution was to run/sneak back to the camp entrance with the help of a fistful of stimpacs and head for a quiet spot in the outer fort area where I could quick walk my way back to civilization. Not easy to do! But the benefit of doing that was I now had quick walk ability into and out of the Fort, and I could deal with the inhabitants piecemeal, and with full armament, and with a body that was fully rested and healed. This became dealing with death squads on steroids and it was most delightful. I cleaned out the entire fort in a few hours of play, and I'm now proud owner of both Caesar's armor and Benny's suit. (And Gun Runners started a summer sale on Legion equipment.<grin>)(My second successful solution was to become better at Sneak Killing, as mentioned at the beginning, and just stay and pick stuff off one-by-one.)


If your sneak ability is high you can disguise yourself by wearing a tribe's clothing. This will let you walk around among the tribe without starting a fight and even do business with the merchants. Conversely, if you want to get a tribe member to start shooting at you, wear the wrong disguise!

Much of the mid-game is further meeting and greeting with tribes you didn't meet in the beginning game. This includes the three families in their casinos inside New Vegas proper, the NCR higher ups, the Legion, the Nellis Boomers and the Brotherhood of Steel in Hidden Valley. Take your time and deal with these people. Solve their problems and they will support you in the end game.

Dealing with Cazadores and Deathclaws

Cazadores and deathclaws are a pain. They are fast, well armored and do a lot of damage. Your first choice in dealing with them is finding high ground where they can't reach you and do your shooting from there. If you can't arrange that, here are some other helpful tactics.

o Take your first shots at Cazadore at their antenna. If you hit, they will go berserk and attack their fellows. (this applies to all insects) If you can't target antenna go for wings.

o Loot Legionaries before you go after Cazadore. They frequently drop Antivenom and you're going to need it. If you can't find enough Legionary corpses, you can make Antivenom at a campfire by mixing Radscorpion Poison Glands and Nightstalker Blood. (Do some quick Lad's Life reading if you need to boost your Survival skill level to make it happen.)

o Use your best armor-piercing ammo.

If you're dealing with a big swarm and you can't get on a secure cliff there is an alternate strategy. Bring lots of extra ammo and shoot at long range. If your sneak is good the monsters won't find you, and instead they will run back and forth around where your shots land. Pump shots into that frenzied group and they will slowly go down. This tactic works well with the deathclaw packs that make the rock quarries their home -- sneak up (Stealth Boy if needed) one of the high structures in the center of those and blast away.

End Game

There are many choices as to how to end the game. Basically, you get to decide who will rule New Vegas after the climactic battle at Hoover Dam: NCR, Legion, Mr. House, or yourself.

In my first game I decided I would be ruler of New Vegas, so with Yes Man's help I got the Securitron army mobilized and under my control. I finished the final battle by Speeching the Legion legate, Legate Lanius, into taking his fight elsewhere. (Speech 100 needed. I gained that with Speech 90 plus my Naughty Nightgown--Speech 10+, Luck 1+) It's a good thing I had the speech because he whupped my hiney several times before I tried letting him talk first. He is one rough home. (In subsequent games I found he can be out-combatted... bring friends.)

These are my final stats on the second game:


Strength 6

Perception 8

Endurance 10

Charisma 7

Intelligence 7

Agility 6

Luck 2

Other Highlights

Level 26

Energy weapons 98

Sneak 100

Speech 100

Science 100

Barter 80

Hardcore mode


-- The End --

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