14 tips for keeping your vault-dwellers alive in ‘Fallout Shelter’

Fallout Shelter, a resource management sim, is a major departure for a studio best known for sprawling RPGs such as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Fallout 4. But Bethesda has put its own spin on the genre, making an equally sprawling management game that’s playable on your phone or tablet. In the years since launch, the game has come to PC and Xbox One, and the team has added new enemies, rooms, and even a novel questing system.

Whether you’re new to the game, a veteran returning from the wasteland, or a longtime overseer looking to get the most out of your vault dwellers, we’ve put together a few pointers to help you get off to a good start and build a thriving vault that will be the envy of scavengers and super mutants around your post-apocalyptic neighborhood.

Build for the future

In the beginning it’s easy to build new rooms haphazardly as they become available. Scroll down and see how deep your vault can run, however, to see how much room there is to expand as your population booms. Larger, connected rooms are more efficient than an equal total of smaller rooms of the same type. Because rooms max out at three across, always leave space for them to expand. Extending the initial elevator directly down leaves you room for three-wide rooms on either side. It may be a little more expensive to build elevators down instead of using more of the horizontal space, but the long-term efficiency of this simple, two-column structure can’t be beat.

Rooms require more power to operate the further they are from a power plant, so be sure to space your reactors out evenly to maximize their efficiency. Don’t build too fast, though! Diners and water treatment facilities use power even if no one is operating them, so building facilities you can’t utilize yet is a waste of precious power. Even if you do have the personnel, sometimes it is better to focus on training them to work more efficiently in the rooms you do have instead of building new ones. Power generating rooms are the exception, though. If you are producing  surplus of electricity, you can safely build more facilities to increase your storage capacity without putting a strain on your resources.

SPECIAL snowflakes

All of your dwellers have the main Fallout games’ SPECIAL stats, standing for Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck. These abilities correspond to how effective the dweller will be in a particular room, so let them guide where you assign them to work. Strength increases production in power plants, Perception helps at the water treatment facility, endurance helps them survive longer in the wasteland, charisma helps them breed more quickly in the living quarters and attract new followers with the radio station, intelligence aids in producing StimPaks and RadAway, and Agility aids in producing food at the diner and garden.

Luck helps dwellers in any job be more likely to succeed when you rush production, and also increases the odds of your wanderers finding good loot. Once you gain access to the training rooms, buff up dwellers’ strongest stat to maximize their efficacy in a given job. Luck is a good second stat to focus on for anyone, followed by Charisma to make repopulating faster for everyone.

Busy bees

You can sort the list of your vault dwellers by different columns, including their current job. Anyone on “Coffee Break” isn’t taking a breather from the power plant–it’s just a euphemism for unemployment. Without a job your dwellers are just soaking up food and water, so be sure to periodically check and make sure everyone is busy either working or training. They are happier when they are busy, so you have no reason not to strive for full employment. When assigning dwellers to rooms, holding them over a given room shows the net change (either positive or negative) on its efficiency. This is an easy way to make sure your dweller assignments are the most impactful, especially when trying to fulfill the objective of assigning dwellers to the proper room.

Second Amendment lover’s paradise

After your wanderers start bringing in weapons, the best thing place to store them is in the hands of every adult citizen you have. Your biggest and most powerful guns, such as alien blasters and the Fat Man, are best saved for those wanderers to stay safe out in the wasteland. Most of the guns you find will be less powerful, like rusty sawed-off shotguns and pistols. You can sell these for a few caps, or build a storage room to keep them, but it’s best first to arm every one of your citizens. Having guns at least some guns in every single room ensures that they will remain safe in case of a radroach infestation or if raiders break through your defenses. It really does embody the NRA’s policy position that a populace armed to the teeth is safer than not.

Don’t bother arming your pregnant women, though. When disaster strikes, pregnant dwellers flee to the bunks in order to wait it out, so guns won’t do them any good. Also don’t bother with weapons that only do 0-1 damage. That’s not any better than the damage they will do with their bare hands, and extra caps are always useful.

Dress for success

Just like with guns, the best place to store the outfits your wanderers bring back is on the backs of your vault dwellers. Outfits boost particular combinations of SPECIAL stats, so try and give everyone an outfit that boosts their strongest stat, corresponding with their job. Endurance and Strength boosting outfits are best saved for your wanderers to keep them safe out there. The nightwear’s Charisma boost is an easy way to help anyone breed more quickly in the living quarters. For lack of anything better, the formal wear’s Luck boost is useful for rushing any room.

Guard duty

Raiders will occasionally harry your vault, but a little preparedness goes a long way. You can assign two vault dwellers to your entrance in order to guard against attacks, but this is often unnecessary, since they are otherwise not producing anything or improving at all. Put two of your more powerful weapons with dwellers who work in the room nearest the entrance on the first floor and then upgrade the vault door’s health early on. When raiders come knocking, simply move your two designated guards from the nearby room to the entrance to fend off the attack. You don’t even have to drag them back afterwards — once the raiders are put down, your guards will run back to their previous job unprompted.

As you dig deeper, more challenging threats like feral ghouls and deathclaws will also come knocking. If you find your attackers are beating your guards to the door, upgrading your vault door will buy you extra time so they can get into place before the enemy breaches.

Medic!

Accidents happen, and sometimes your dwellers will take a beating from raiders, radroaches, or fires. They will gradually heal back up to full if left alone after the problem is resolved, but sometimes a series of unfortunate events or a poorly-armed room means that a few may be gravely wounded in the course of duty. Rather than paying caps to revive them after the fact (since no one ever dies permanently), it is much more effective to select dwellers that you see running low on health and immediately apply Stimpaks, which restore a substantial portion of their health instantaneously. Radiation reduces their maximum health (as indicated by a red bar that grows from the right), so be sure to use RadAway before wasting Stimpaks on your irradiated dwellers. If they do kick the bucket, don’t despair! Anyone who dies, whether at home or wandering the wasteland, can be revived. It’s expensive, but it’s better than losing your favorite citizens forever.