Fallout Shelter: Finding the Descenders

It's been over 100 years since our ancestors built the vault. We've done pretty well since that time, all things considered. We even discovered how to use the telegraph that connects us to Vault 321, and have established a trade route between our vaults, through the wasteland. Today a group of us from Vault 456, the Ascenders, leaves on a journey through the wasteland to Vault 321, to meet with the Descenders. 

About the game

This is a homebrew role playing game / mashup with elements of Powered By The Apocalypse, Dread questionnaires, Fallout Shelter, and Lego for up to 4 players.

The goal of the game was to combine a number of things:

  • Simple character generation, in the spirit of some of my previous games
  • Questionnaires which provide for player ownership of the characters, as well as variability
  • Elements to help mimic the flavor of the Fallout Shelter app - a resource management game - but which also provide for a fun role playing experience
  • A leveling up mechanic which uses narrative objects (for example "Hungry", or "Brave") with mechanical and narrative goals.
  • Background music to enhance play

I've run the game half a dozen times, starting in February, including at Strategicon Orccon 2016, Girl Gamer Gathering, and Gamex 2015.

The system

The system itself is summarized in the following page:

I wanted to use the SPECIAL stats from Fallout Shelter. Your chance of success in any visible tasks in Fallout Shelter (namely: Rushing a room) is percentile-based. Percentile seems a bit crunchy though, so I went with a simpler d10 mechanic.

Much like PbtA games, I wanted at least the 3 basic results, however settled on 4 for various reasons: Fail, Struggle, Succeed, and Exceed. You'll notice that the results often call for numbers much higher than 10, however when you add your stat (often 1-4) and then the value from your outfit (an additional 2-5) you can more easily roll something like a 14.

Most of the moves are 2-D (two dimensional) moves, that are similar to actions in the app game. However there is also the "3-D Action", which is a catch-all for anything role playing that isn't supported by the app. The corresponding stat is really up to the GM, and should just be a choice based on common sense.

Character selection

You can choose from one of the following six character "pre-gens":

  1. The Immigrant: You grew up as a "Descender", one of the people from Vault 321, but after communications opened between your vault and Vault 456, you became the first to transfer residency.
  2. The Ex-overseer: You were the youngest, and most short-lived, overseer in Vault 456 history.
  3. The Scientist: You are one of Vault 465’s scientists and medical professionals, responsible for the health of the dwellers.
  4. The Wasteland Explorer: You are the one resident of Vault 456 who is the most experienced with traversing the wasteland. 
  5. The Food Engineer: You are Vault 456’s chief engineer responsible for food production and water purity.
  6. The Wasteland Orphan: You grew up in the wasteland, taken as a slave by the raiders that killed your family, and then found and adopted by Vault 456’s Wasteland Explorer.

The pre-gens are just partially defined with some starting stats, and it's up to the character to select a character picture, additional stats, answer a very simple questionnaire (3 questions), and select a starting item.


No spoilers here, but I will say that the scenario is generally different just about every time. In theory you can play twice without too much overlap (my daughter has done exactly that).

I'm hoping to bring it to more places before the end of the year is up, including:

In the LA area and want to play? Let me know. I'm part of a meetup or two and might run something in the vicinity.