It’s the End of the World and I’m S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Dec12


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It’s the End of the World and I’m S.P.E.C.I.A.L.

"Fallout 4 - Dogmeat" | Art by CryO5. Used with permission.

Sirens rage and people flee, the moment feared as come to be.
Pack up the kids don’t take a thing for death is coming on steely wing.
All seems lost as bombs descend, the nuclear fire swells.
But for the few steel doors roll shut and inwardly life dwells.

122 vaults are sealed in the Fallout universe as nuclear bombs fall across the USA. As far as humanity knows, those vaults host the only survivors. Humanity has ruined the planet with wars, aggression, and violence, and now the only hope for the species is to lock itself away until the consequences of their evil abates and the surface is safe. Decades go by, generations are born and die, and finally as vault systems begin to break down or fail, lone wanders, merchants, and survivors venture out into the wasteland in hopes of finding a way to sustain life and begin again.

As the locks cycle and the door slides away breaking the 200-year seal, I’m struck with the harsh colours and unfiltered lights of a changed world. Dust blows and something ominous howls in the distance… its clear I’m no longer in the safe arms of Vaultec™. But it’s okay. I took the Generalized Occupational Aptitude Test (G.O.A.T.) and it said I was handy with a pistol, knew my way around an IED and could probably sweet talk my way into an extra couple caps for that old junk I found. I made sure my Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence and Agility complimented my G.O.A.T. and I even threw in a little Luck, well, for luck. Knowing I’m S.P.E.C.I.A.L. gives me total confidence that as a survivor of the war I’m ready to go out, blaze a trail of glory in the empty wasteland, and save my people!

Will I sit quietly in my vault and hope that everything goes away?

As I exit the vault I realize that I might have been slightly misinformed about the world and my abilities because I almost immediately stumble upon civilization. The people I find are not other vault dwellers, but humans who never had the luxury of waiting out the storms and fires in underground bunkers. Hundreds, thousands, maybe even millions of people survived the war, although not unchanged.

It turns out people have been living, toiling, dying and waging wars since the doors were sealed. Even the horror of a nuclear world war wasn’t enough to stop people from tinkering with nature, messing with technology, and fighting battles for resources. Those survivors, blissfully forgotten by us in the vault, have been organizing for hundreds of years. From bleak little communities have sprung cities and nations of people; each group has their own agenda and will fight, often brutally, to accomplish it. And where I thought I was the most S.P.E.C.I.A.L person in the world, it turns out to most I’m anything but. The world has a—let’s just say unkind—impression about those of us who chose to close our doors and hide from the consequences of our wars.

And none hate me more than the super mutants. Super mutants were chemically and genetically engineered super soldiers meant to fight for the factions and take land… and then the radiation further twisted and changed who and what they were. Intelligent and with a robust oral history, they remember the experiments, the tests, and the abandonment. As they thrive in the wasteland that we die in, they see themselves as the next evolution and want nothing more than to wipe out their old masters and make a new world where the strong are at the top.

It’s hard to blame them, though. Abandoned science experiments, soldiers meant to fight and kill on behalf of another and left for dead when the apocalypse comes—they have every right to hate the humans.

When I face a problem in my life, my first thought is about survival. Well, survival and pinpointing someone else to blame while wondering how I can hide from the consequences. That is the allure of the vault. When the apocalypse hits and the world suffers from the flames of humanity’s ignorance, I’ll be safely sequestered in a happy little place and can come out when the dust settles. And, of course, I expect to go back to my happy little existence like nothing has changed.

And where I thought I was the most S.P.E.C.I.A.L person in the world, it turns out to most I’m anything but.

The active wasteland of the Fallout universe doesn’t let me return to things as they were, however. When I return to the surface, I am forced to face the consequences of the choices humanity made before it sealed itself away. The game keeps bringing me into contact with the disenfranchised. It forces me to decide who gets resources and who doesn’t. I must take ownership of the wasteland and the part my people played in ruining it and then work to do something different in the future.

I can’t change the damages done, but I can act to stop war, put an end to slavery, and resist those who would lead us back down that same path of war and destruction. Or I can be a jerk. I can shoot people, steal things and cause more problems than I solve. The choice is given to me to be an agent of good or perpetuate the bigotry and violence that got me into that vault in the first place. So, in the end I am S.P.E.C.I.A.L., not because I’m the protagonist, but because I can no longer hide my head in the sand. I must act. And that reminds me that I face that same choice every day. Will I act to bring peace and hope, will I act to foment chaos, or will I sit quietly in my vault and hope that everything goes away? The responsibility to make those choices and subsequent consequences are mine and no matter what I do I can’t hide from that fact. I am S.P.E.C.I.A.L. and need to act as such.

Dustin Schellenberg

Dustin Schellenberg

Contributing Writer at Area of Effect
Dustin spends his time exploring the far reaches of space, understand the ancient ways of might and magic, and wandering the post-apocalyptic wastes. If it has a reasonably open world, a crafting system and some way to sneak around, he'll be there. When not gaming, he's probably planning his next D&D character (because his DM keeps killing off the old ones). He is a competent bass player and guitarist, mediocre mid laner and outright awful FPS player. He is father of two, husband of one, a sometimes theologian, and all-times pastor of Crestview Park Free Methodist Church in Winnipeg, MB.
Dustin Schellenberg