So, you're firing up Fallout 4, preparing your first journey into the irradiated Boston wasteland. Suddenly, you're asked to allocate your stats loadout, known in the Fallout universe as S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Just what does it all mean?
In this quick guide, I'll be explaining what each of the stats do for your character, as well as listing the perks you can obtain as a result of your S.P.E.C.I.A.L. loadout.
For the uninitiated, Fallout 4, at its core, is an RPG. Fallout 4's shooting mechanics have been standardized to a degree, but your stats still determine your proficiency in combat. Whether you decide to be a melee fighter, a grenadier, sniper, or pistol wielding gunslinger is entirely up to you, but a smart S.P.E.C.I.A.L. loadout will only enhance your chosen role (or roles!).
S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stands for Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck, and each stat empowers different attributes. You're given 21 stat points to play with at the start of the game, and every time you level up, you're given a choice between adding an extra point of S.P.E.C.I.A.L., or spending a point on a perk. Each point in a particular stat gives you access to a new perk, each of which comes with powerful bonuses. There are items that can increase your S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats, glasses you can find in the first area increase your Perception by 1 for example, and there are various chems (drugs) that can increase your stats temporarily.
Fallout 4 has no hard level cap, but as we saw with Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, progression after a certain point will begin to slow down considerably, particularly as you begin running out of enemies and quests. So, be sure to plan ahead!
The best way I've found so far when it comes to character building is to use NukaHub's excellent character sheet calculator, you can save builds for later and even share them with your friends.
To access the perks list in-game, you hit B to display your Pip-Boy, then press Y. The perks sheet looks like the below image, detailing each perk, its requirements, and rank.
Below is an explanation of each of Fallout's S.P.E.C.I.A.L. attributes and an overview of the perks attached to each level of those stats. The higher ranks of each perk contain ever increasing bonuses and modifiers.
As you might expect, strength determines your physical power. A high strength stat will increase the amount of items you can carry (and thus, the variety of weapons you can wield). It also increases the damage you deal with melee weapons, like baseball bats and sledgehammers. Strength is also tied to perks that increase your prowess in fist fighting, armor crafting, heavy weapons wielding, and hip-fire shooting. The highest strength stats will give you access to the Pain Train perk, which provides combat bonuses when wearing the iconic Power Armor.
- Iron Fist – Channel your chi to unleash devastating fury! Punching attacks do 20% more damage to your opponent. (5 Ranks)
- Big Leagues – Swing for the fences! Do 20% more melee weapon damage. (5 Ranks)
- Armorer – Protect yourself from the dangers of the Wasteland with access to base level and Rank 1 armor mods. (4 Ranks)
- Blacksmith – Fire up the forge and gain access to base level and Rank 1 melee weapon mods. (3 Ranks)
- Heavy Gunner – Thanks to practice and conditioning, heavy guns do 20% more damage. (5 Ranks)
- Strong Back – What are you, part pack mule? Gain +25 to carry weight. (4 Ranks)
- Steady Aim – Stay on target! Hip-fire accuracy is improved when firing any gun. (2 Ranks)
- Basher – Get up close and personal! Gun bashing does 25% more damage. (4 Ranks)
- Rooted – You're part tree! While standing still, you gain +25 Damage Resistance and your melee and unarmed attacks deal 25% more damage (3 Ranks)
- Pain Train – Choo choo! All aboard! While wearing Power Armor, sprinting into enemies hurts and staggers them. (Robots and oversized enemies are immune to stagger.) (3 Ranks)
Perception primarily affects your weapon accuracy in V.A.T.S., Fallout's slow-motion auto-targeting system. It also comes tied to perks rogue-type characters might enjoy, like lockpicking, pickpocketing, and explosives. Perception also carries perks that will boost rifle and sniper skills.
- Pickpocket – Your quick hands and sticky fingers make picking pockets 25% easier. (4 Ranks)
- Rifleman – Keep your distance long and your kill-count high. Attacks with non-automatic rifles do 20% more damage. (5 Ranks)
- Awareness – To defeat your enemies, you know their weaknesses! You can view a targets specific damage resistances in V.A.T.S. (1 Rank)
- Locksmith – Your nimble fingers allow you to pick Advanced locks. (4 Ranks)
- Demolition Expert – The bigger the boom, the better! Your explosives do 25% more damage, and you can craft explosives at any Chemistry Station. (4 Ranks)
- Night Person – You are a creature of the night! Gain +2 to Intelligence and Perception between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. (2 Ranks)
- Refractor – You must be part mirror! Instantly gain +10 Energy Resistance. (5 Ranks)
- Sniper – It's all about focus. You have improved control and can hold your breath longer when aiming with scopes. (3 Ranks)
- Penetrator – There's no place to hide! In V.A.T.S. you can target an enemy's body parts that are blocked by cover, with a decrease in accuracy. (2 Ranks)
- Concentrated Fire – Stay focused! In V.A.T.S. every attack on the same body part gains +10% accuracy. (3 Ranks)
Endurance directly impacts your hit points and the amount you can sprint. The perks tied to endurance includes all sorts of damage resistances, the ability to eat a wider variety of foods and drinks (including human flesh) and the ability to take in healing from sunlight.
- Toughness – You now have +20 Damage Resistance (5 Ranks)
- Lead Belly – Your digestive tract has adjusted to the weirdness of the Wasteland! Take less radiation from eating or drinking. (3 Ranks)
- Life Giver – You instantly gain another +20 maximum Health. (3 ranks)
- Chem Resistant – All the rush without the hassle! You're 50% less likely to get addicted when consuming chems. (2 Ranks)
- Aquaboy – Water is your ally. You no longer take radiation damage from swimming, and can breath underwater (2 Ranks)
- Rad Resistant – Exposure to the Wasteland has made you more resilient, instantly granting +10 Radiation Resistance. (3 Ranks)
- Adamantium Skeleton – Your skeleton has been infused with indestructible metal, reducing limb damage by 30% (3 Ranks)
- Cannibal – Feast on mortal flesh to heal your wounds! Eating human corpses restores Health. (3 Ranks)
- Ghoulish – Sure, you're still human – on the outside! Radiation now regenerates your lost Health. (3 Ranks)
- Solar Powered – Catch some rays! Gain +2 to Strength and Endurance between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. (3 Ranks)
Charisma expands your toolset in the game's conversations. With a higher Charisma, you can persuade other characters to do your bidding, and get reduced prices from merchants and vendors. Charisma perks enhance your ability to command your followers, such as the much-advertised canine companion. You can also use Charisma perks to improve your homestead, building supply lines and on-site stores.
- Cap Collector – Buying and selling prices at vendors are now much better. (3 Ranks)
- Lady Killer – You're charming… and dangerous. Women suffer +5% damage in combat, and are easier to persuade in dialogue. (3 Ranks)
- Lone Wanderer – Who needs friends, anyway? When adventuring without a companion, you take 15% less damage and carry weight increases by 50. (3 Ranks)
- Attack Dog – Your faithful canine companion can hold an enemy, giving you a greater chance to hit them in V.A.T.S. (3 Ranks)
- Animal Friend – Commune with beasts! With your gun, aim at any animal below your level and gain a chance to pacify it. (3 Ranks)
- Local Leader – As the ruler everyone turns to, you are able to establish supply lines between your workshop settlements. (2 Ranks)
- Party Boy – Nobody has a good time like you! There's no chance you'll get addicted to alcohol. (3 Ranks)
- Traditional – Because you lead by example, your companion does more damage in combat, and cannot hurt you. (3 Ranks)
- Wasteland Whisperer – Master the post-apocalypse! With your gain, aim at any Wasteland creature below your level and gain a chance to pacify it. (3 Ranks)
- Intimidation – Time to show everyone who's boss! With your gun, aim at any human opponent below your level and gain a chance to pacify them. (3 Ranks)
Intelligence primarily increases the amount of EXP you gain from performing actions in the wasteland, allowing you to level up faster. Intelligence perks pertain to crafting, hacking computers and even robots, turning them into your allies. The highest perk allows you to become enraged at low health, slowing down time and increasing your damage dealt.
- V.A.N.S. – Let Vault-Tec guide you! The path to your closest quest target is displayed in V.A.T.S. (1 Ranks)
- Medic – Stimpaks now restore 60% of lost Health, and RadAway removes 60% of radiation. (4 Ranks)
- Gun Nut – Shoot first, kill first, with access to base level and Rank 1 gun mods. (4 Ranks)
- Hacker – Knowledge of cutting-edge computer encryption allows you to hack Advanced terminals. (4 Ranks)
- Scrapper – Waste not, want not! You can salvage uncommon components like screws, aluminum, and copper when scrapping weapons and armor. (2 Ranks)
- Science! – Take full advantage of advanced technology with access to base level and Rank 1 high-tech mods. (4 Ranks)
- Chemist – Any chems you take last 50% longer. Far out. (4 Ranks)
- Robotics Expert – Machines will always serve humans, if you have anything to say about it. Hack a robot, and gain a chance to power it on or off, or initiate a self-destruct. (3 Ranks)
- Nuclear Physicist – You've learned to split the atom… and command it. Radiation weapons do 50% more damage and Fusion Cores last an extra 25% longer. (3 Ranks)
- Nerd Rage – Genius. Is. ANGRY! When your Health drops below 20%, time slows and you gain +20 Damage Resistance and do 20% more damage while the effect lasts. (3 Ranks)
Agility enhances the frequency you can use V.A.T.S. targeting system, and also grants bonuses to sneaking. Perks tied to Agility increase your abilities with one handed, silenced weapons, and also increase your damage while attacking from stealth.
- Gunslinger – Channel the spirit of the Old West! Non-automatic pistols do 20% more damage. (5 Ranks)
- Commando – Your automatic weapons now do 40% more damage, and improved hip fire accuracy. (5 Ranks)
- Sneak – Become whisper, become shadow. You are 20% harder to detect while sneaking. (5 Ranks)
- Mister Sandman – As an agent of death itself, you can instantly kill a sleeping person. Your silenced weapons do an additional 15% sneak damage. (3 Ranks)
- Action Boy – There's no time to waste! Your Action Points regenerate 25% faster. (2 Ranks)
- Moving Target – They can't hurt what they can't hit! Get +25 Damage Resistance and +25 Energy Resistance when you're sprinting. (3 Ranks)
- Ninja – Trained as a shadow warrior, your ranged sneak attacks do 2.5x normal damage and your melee sneak attacks do 4x normal damage. (3 Ranks)
- Quick Hands – In combat, there's no time to hesitate. You can reload all guns faster. (2 Ranks)
- Blitz – Find the gap and make the tackle! V.A.T.S. melee distance is increased significantly. (2 Ranks)
- Gun-Fu – You've learned to apply ancient martial arts to gunplay! Do 25% more damage to your second V.A.T.S. target and beyond. (3 Ranks)
Luck governs the frequency of critical hits, which deal increased damage. It also gives you a higher chance to find quality items when looting containers throughout the wasteland. Some of the Luck perks include further bonuses to crit chance, but also additional bonuses that occur at random.
- Fortune Finder – You find even more bottle caps in containers (3 Ranks)
- Scrounger – You find even more ammunition in containers. (4 Ranks)
- Bloody Mess – You now inflict +10% damage in combat. (4 Ranks)
- Mysterious Stranger – Who is he? Why does he help? Who cares! The Mysterious Stranger will appear occasionally in V.A.T.S. to lend a hand, with deadly efficiency. (3 Ranks)
- Idiot Savant – You're not stupid! Just… different. Randomly receive 3x XP from any action, and the lower your intelligence, the greater the chance. (3 Ranks)
- Better Criticals – Advanced training for enhanced combat effectiveness! Criticals do 50% more damage. (3 Ranks)
- Critical Banker – You're a patient battlefield tactician, and can save a Critical Hit, to be used in V.A.T.S. when you need it most. (3 Ranks)
- Grim Reaper's Sprint – Death becomes you! Any kill in V.A.T.S. has a 15% chance to restore all Action Points. (2 Ranks)
- Four Leaf Clover – Feeling lucky? You should! Each hit in V.A.T.S. has a chance of filling your Critical meter. (5 Ranks)
- Ricochet – What goes around comes around! An enemy's ranged attack will sometimes ricochet back and instantly kill them. The closer you are to death, the higher the chance. (3 Ranks)
To start with, I'm going to try a stealthy sniper type build, taking high perception and agility at the cost of almost everything else. Of course, given Fallout 4's lack of a level cap, things could work out quite differently by the time I "finish" the game.
What sort of class will you play? Let's discuss it below!