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The Brute Squad's Guide to NPC's


Reduced from the original Sanskrit by Treefrog

Strength in Numbers, that's our motto. Sure, you can walk into New Reno and negotiate with its denizens to get what you want-- or you can charge in with a minigun-toting mutant ("The minigun is neither mini nor a gun (it's a lead hose). Discuss"), a Rastafarian with a supercharged sledgehammer ("Jar-Jar, Sulik here would like to discuss the negative stereotypes you brought to his people."), a couple of gauss-rifle senior citizen snipers, and a bookish deathclaw with a bad taste in clothing. I think we all know what we like better.

For those of you who want a high charisma only so you can fill up the back seat of your Highwayman with post apocalyptic badasses ("Boss, Goris and Sulik keep shoving me. Are we there yet?"), and those who like to run your fallout games like a merc unit, we offer the following. This info is most useful to those who have four or more NPC's tagging along, but there is some info that's useful anytime.

Your recruits, your cannon fodder
(In order of appearance)

Sulik: Awwww yeah. This man is the sole reason to keep your karma shiny. A fellow tribal, he has more style than you. Good with fists, melee weapons and, for some reason, SMG's, Sulik is your right-hand man for the early half of the game, and your cleanup man for the rest. Give him the best armor you got (aside from your own), a few stimpacks, and an 10mm SMG, and he'll keep you alive in the early game. Later on, give him whatever good SMG you have (grease gun vs. H&KP90: the dilemma...) and a super-sledgehammer. He'll keep a few opponents occupied and, even against the Enclave troopers, take a couple down. He and Goris seem to team up on opponents a lot. Sulik is best with combat orders to "charge" and let him attack either "whomever's closest" or "whoever he wants". I always like to keep him close to me when traveling.

Vic: Many people badmouth Vic, suggesting that you lose him if you don't need his repair skills. Obviously none of these people have never given Vic a hunting rifle or [shudder] a Gauss rifle. Vic is your sniper. In the early game, Vic and a hunting rifle (with combat orders to attack the weakest) will finish off softened targets. If he keeps his distance, he's even worse with a scoped hunting rifle. When you get him a Gauss rifle, he'll be blowing holes (literally) through people left in right. When traveling, let Vic hang back a bit, i.e. "don't get to far away." If you let him spread out, a lot of time's he'll be too far away when the shit comes down and the battle will be over before he gets in range. For combat orders, let him attack on "on your own" distance while targeting the "weakest" to attack.

Miria/Davin: Your spouses from a shotgun wedding if you can't keep in your pants while in Modoc. Thoroughly expendable; lose'em ASAP or, even better, don't get'em in the first place.

Cassidy: Along with Vic, these are your representives of the senior citizen contingent. In this game, however, old is good. Cassidy joins on with a sawed-off shotgun, and can graduate to a Pancor Jackhammer, a Gauss rifle or even a plasma pistol. Personally, I like the plasma pistol option. Since Gauss ammo is very hard to come by, I only have enough for one Gauss weapon in my party, which goes to Vic. And, despite the numerous benefits of the Jackhammer, Cassidy can fire two Plasma shots a turn, accurately, from a distance. He's currently exceeding me in the "fried skeleton" count. For combat orders, let him attack "whomever he wants" either "on your own" or "charge!" depending on whether he has a burst-capable weapon. (See Tactics Tweaking below.)
NOTE: Because of Cassidy's heart condition, don't give him any drugs stronger than a Stimpack; it could kill him.

Lenny: He's useful in the early game, but later you'll want to trade him up for someone with a bit more killing power. Early game, he can do respectable damage with an SMG, then heal up your party afterwards. However, when it comes to a choice between Lenny and, say, Marcus or goris, I'm afraid you'll want to leave Lenny behind. Set his combat orders to "charge," and have him target either "the closest" or "whomever he wants."

Marcus: And here's your heavy-weapons man. When he joins up, he's toting a minigun. I like to upgrade him to either a Bozar (stolen off the bazaar guards outside NCR) or a turbo Plasma rile (modified by the guy in the basement of New Reno Arms). Marcus is a tank in the midgame, but later on he'll start to seem a bit delicate as Sulik, Cassidy and even Vic acquire power armor. Considering that he'll be toting either burst-mode big guns or high-damage energy weapons, you want his combat orders set to "charge" so that he doesn't ventilate your friends. (See Tactics Tweaking below.)
NOTE: Marcus is a cripple, and tends to lag behind if you're moving quickly. If you're walking into a fight, make sure to wait up for Marcus so that you're not without the benefit of the brute while he's trying to catch up to you. I like to keep him at middle distance ("don't get to far away"), but I'll pull him closer in if things are looking bad. Also, do not give him (or anyone else who might use them) grenades. He's relatively careful about not hitting you with them, but he doesn't give your other friends such courtesy. Giving Marcus a plasma grenade is basically signing Sulik's death warrant.

Myron: DO NOT LET GIVE THIS BOY ANYTHING SHARPER THAN A BOWLING BALL. You might need him for his science skills (us horde-leaders aren't much on book-learning), but he should not be allowed any sharp implements, explosive devices, or indeed anything with more damage potential than a pair of nailclippers. He'll hurt himself; he'll hurt you. He's not too atrocious with a needler pistol, but he's still a danger to your friends. If you need the science boy, have him lag behind ("spread out a bit" distance) and have him run away if when the shit hits the fan ("abject coward"). In the meantime, raise up your own science skill up so you can drop him in favor of someone who's not a complete liability in combat.
NOTE: For some comic relief, you could bring Myron along and listen to the other members of your party badmouth him. Particularly, Cassidy and Marcus pick on him.

Sierra Depot Robot: Its usefulness depends on the brain you can retrieve from the storage facility, which in turn depends on your science skills. Unless you can get the Skynet cyber-brain (which for me required 10 intelligence and 120+ science skill, and hoping that James Cameron won't sue your ass for plagiarism), it's not worth the troble. With the Skynet brain, he's a good man with small rifles and big pistols. In my opinion, he's not worth it even then. By the time you get him, all the gun-toting members of your party are probably packing some major heat, and this robot's only foray into heavy firepower is gauss weapons. He's good with them, but I prefer Vic to have a Gauss rifle. Since the Gauss ammo is hard to find, I usually can't keep two gauss weapons supplied. I know he won't use plasma pistols or the H&K caseless assault rifle, but if you give him a rapid-fire shotgun or a lesser assault rifle he might be useful. If you do bring him with, be sure to let him charge in; since he can repair himself almost instantly he's a good choice to be a bullet sponge and draw fire from your party's more delicate members. For combat orders, let him attack "whomever he wants" or "the strongest," that way he'll keep one or two hostiles tied up while the rest of your party can cut through the rest of the attackers. When traveling, have him stay at middle distance.
NOTE: Like Marcus, the robot is a slow mover; it'll lag behind if you're moving around to fast while traveling. If you're going to a fight, be sure to wait up for it or the fight will be over before the robot arrives. Also, he apparently has science skills, so if you've had Myron with you, you can trade up to Skynet and have a scientist who can shoot, too. Considering that you need to be a genius scientist yourself to get him, however, that's not too likely.

Goris: I always wanted a pet deathclaw! In that overcoat, he looks like a cross between Humphrey Bogart and the Hunchback of Notre Dame. In the midgame, Guris is great in a fight. He can move around the battlefield quick, and gets lots of attacks each turn. Unfortunately, his usefulness flags in the endgame. Against powered armor, his physical attacks are less than thrilling, and he can't wear any armor so he'll appear a bit frail next to a power-armored Sulik or Cassidy. However, he can still take some pounding even then, and the sheer number of his attacks gives him a good chance for a critical hit. When traveling, keep him close by, and have his attack orders set to "charge" "whomever's closest." I have Sulik and Goris close-by at all times, and set their attack orders identically; they work well together.

K-9, CyberDog: (With apologies to Dr. Who and Wallace & Gromit respectively.) The robo-dogs aren't bad, but they're nothing special. K-9 is definitely the better of them, but even there you'll probably prefer to have another gun-toting thugTM in your party. Even if you don't want more guns, I'd still recommend either goris or Sulik with a super-sledge. If you are bringing them along, set them to "keep close" distance and have them attack whoemver's attacking you. The robodogs are most useful when they're assisting you, they're not strong enough to launch their own attacks.

Dogmeat: The indispensable holdover from Fallout 1. He's cute, he's cuddly, he's probably rabid. If you've got one of those robot-dogs in your party, drop them for Dogmeat if you're lucky enough to wander into the Boulevard of Broken Dreams. Set his travel/attack orders identically to the robot dogs', (travel: close to me, attack: charge/ whomever's attacking me), or, if you don't need the help, set him up as another Goris (travel: close or nearby. attack: charge/whomever's closest).
NOTE: You only find Dogmeat in one, rather rare, random encounter: the "Boulevard of Broken Dreams." I've only gotten this encounter when I've had a full party, and it seems to disappear from the map as soon as you leave. This means that, to get Dogmeat, you'll probably have to leave someone behind, and that you'll never see them again. That's right, now you've got a chance to lose Myron for good.

Tactics Tweaking
Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Combat Control

It seems that lots of people have lots of problems with managing their NPC's in combat. I.e., they're afraid to let any NPC fire burst-mode for fear that they'll waste either themselves or another NPC. This is why we have that little "custom" option in Combat Control. Proper use of this option will prevent 99% of known friendly-fire accidents and increase your brute squad's effectiveness by up to 83.69123456789%.

The first rule is: always have burst-fire personnel charge. Most burst-fire accidents happen when someone is trying to spray a target halfway across the screen. If your NPC is at in-your-face range, he's much less likely to hit one of your other friends, even those who are attacking the same target. Remember that, even if an NPC is set to "be absolutely certain not to hit me" with burst-mode fire, he won't be nearly that careful to avoid your other friends; it's still very likely they'll shoot another NPC. An extra added bonus is that, at pointblank range, they're much more likely to hit, meaning that all that ammunition they used in that short, controlled burst won't go to waste.

Generally, I find it's best to keep your NPC's at staggered ranges while traveling (one or two at "stay close", one or two at "don't get too far away" and maybe one at "spread out"), and then have at least half "charge" "whomever's closest". This means that there's a good chance that your party will select at least two or three different targets.

I like the "charge" tactic for a variety of other reasons. Oddly enough, if half of your party is charging, it's much less likely that anyone will die. This is because your enemies can no longer concentrate all their fire on one target; now they've got to distribute their fire between a berserk (literally) Sulik, a rampaging goris, a pointblank Marcus, as well as the inevitable shots at yourself. Also, this lets your NPC's use any extra action points to make physical attacks. This might not mean much for Vic, but an extra punch from Marcus is nothing to laugh at.

For those who do want to hang back, I recommend the "on your own" distance setting. I originally set Vic to the "snipe" range, but that's useless; he spends so much time maneuvering for position that he almost never takes a shot. As it stands, I like to have a Gauss-toting Vic and a plasma pistol-packing Cassidy at the "on your own" range, set to attack "the weakest" and "whomever you want" respectively.

Keep in mind that, except for the various Dogs and maybe goris, that giving the "stay close to me" distance and "whomever's attacking me" attack orders is like painting a target on your forehead. Anyone with these orders stands a very good chance of accidentally hitting you. Besides, if you've set up the rest of your party the way I've advised, your enemies will be so busy dealing with a charging Brute Squad that they won't give you too much trouble-- you should be able to handle anything that comes at you.

Finally, there are some times when you want to leave some of your numerous followers behind. Particularly, when you're short on space. For example, when attacking Navarro, I like to sneak into the lower level, clean it out, then make hit-and-run attacks on the upper level. That is, I go up an elevator, take out a few targets, then go back down the elevator to regroup and recoup. This isn't possible with more than, say, three NPC's. Otherwise, you and your five NPC's will be shoved into a small corner and so tightly-packed that none of you can move, and your less-than-accurate friends will shoot you in the back of the head. (For this reason, I don't free that other Deathclaw until I've cleaned the upper level out).

The Brute Squad and you!
Designing your character to work with your horde

Organizing a Brute Squad is an ideal strategy for a non-combat character; you can let your henchmen do the muscle work while you spend those skill points on developing your people skills. You can play the thief, the diplomat, and the scientist, and let your friends supply the firepower when the shit comes down. In such a case, have goris or one of the Dogs act as a bodyguard (distance: "close to me" / attack: "whomever's attacking me") and use your action points to run away very fast. No worries. Just make sure you get a good science skill so that you don't have to waste an NPC slot on Myron, and make sure you don't outpace your party while traveling.

Even so, I like the hands-on approach: my character is still a combat character. He plays a sort of free-safety in battle, charging in to assist any NPC in need of help, or hanging back and sniping, as necessary. With this in mind, I recommend:

  • Take "small arms" as a tag skill. A useful skill all through the game, from your first pipe-gun to your last gauss rifle round. Then, work up a good skill in either "big guns" or "energy weapons" (you don't need both). You don't need to tag them at the beginning of the game, but either give it a few points every level or take the "Tag!" perk to tag them later in the game and pump it up quick. I prefer energy weapons; lasers might be useless against power armor but plasma and pulse rifles certainly aren't, and they allow you to deliver damage with much greater precision (and much less risk to your friends) than a minigun or a rocket launcher.
  • Unless you plan on using a lot melee weapons, you won't need a strength higher than 6. That will let you do decent weapon with the spear until you get a gun, and will make sure you can handle almost all ranged weapons after that. For those guns that might need higher strength (if there are any), you can be sure you won't really need them until you get power armor to raise your strength. Also, I was never big on endurance. Sure, you might not heal as fast or have tons of hit points, but that's what friends are for. I usually lock my endurance in at 4.
  • Specialize as either a sniper or a rapid-shooter. This means either take a very high Perception and a moderate Agility (to be a sniper-- good long-range but not many action points) or a very high Agility and a moderately high Perception (to be a rapid-shooter-- lots of action points and decent range). If you want to be a sniper, try the "finesse" trait that gives you more critical. If you want to be a rapid-shooter you need that "fast shot" trait. Sure, you can't do aimed shots, but the fact that you have 10 action points and can shoot a Magnum or a Pulse pistol three times in a round makes up for it. Even better is two burst-mode shots a round (that's right, empty the pancor jackhammer completely in a single round). Whatever you are, I'm a big fan of the "gifted" trait to pump your stats up-- you won't have so many skill points, but you won't need them so much because of your godlike stats and, anyways, you can let those people skills lag a bit because your numerous guns, knives, claw, and other pointy bits can do the talking.
  • Later on, you'll want the "bonus move" perks (giving the free-safety that indispensable extra maneuverability). If you have a good Luck stat, take the "sniper" perk as soon as possible (note: Proper talking to the Hubologist in NCR will get you a zeta-scan that raises your luck by two). For the rapid-shooter, a couple levels of Action Boy lets you fire those pistols four times a round (three for slower ones). For Snipers, those action points might allow you to take an extra shot after an aimed shot. If you're Perception isn't all it could be, by all means take one level of Sharpshooter. Any Free-safety will enjoy the 'quick pockets' perk, letting you switch weapons or bust out the stimpacks for a mere cost of 2 action points.
  • During the game, make sure to search the bodies of all your enemies. Take any unneeded weapons and equipment they have and trade them in for money and stimpacks. Also, always use this surplus equipment to pay for anything else you're buying-- only pay in cash as a last resort, since liquid assets are hard to come by. When you do have to pay in cash, try to by back the cash with other surplus equipment later.

Evaluating the Brute Squad
Consumer Reports Rates the Top NPC's On the Market for Danger, Durability and Slot-effectiveness

Remember that you can always leave your NPC's behind to pick up new ones. So, if there's no one else available, don't shirk the chance to temporarily pick up a mediocre NPC until a better one comes along.

EARLY- and MID-GAME:

Since you won't see many advanced armors and not too many advanced weapons, the characters that sacrifice armor for inherent meanness steal the show.
  • THE TOP THREE: Marcus, goris, and Sulik. They're your must-haves. If you happen upon the Boulevard, you might substitute Dogmeat for goris.
  • THE RUNNERS-UP: Vic, Cassidy, and the Skynet-bot. Vic and Cassidy are good triggermen, and can take some punishment if they've got decent armor. If you can grab Skynet this early, his automatic healing will save you a load on stimpacks in a time when money's tight.
  • IF NO-ONE ELSE IS AVAILABLE: Lenny, the robot-dogs
  • IF YOU NEED SOMEONE TO CATCH BULLETS: Miria, Davin, Myron. OK, you might need Myron for science skills, but otherwise these three aren't much good for anything more than taking up space. If you don't need Myron, leave them all behind and just have an under-quota party.

LATE-GAME:

When you start seeing a lot of energy weapons, power armor and other nasty things, you know you're in late-game. The ability to wear armor becomes more important, since it's better at resisting laser, plasma and minigun fire than the thickest hide. Therefore, priorities change.
  • THE TOP THREE: Vic, Cassidy and Sulik. Give Vic the gauss rifle and all the ammo for it you can find, give Cassidy a plasma pistol or whatever else you like, and give Sulik the best SMG you got and the super-sledgehammer. Get them all in power armor ASAP. Since money shouldn't be as tight anymore, make sure you've got lots of stimpacks.
  • THE RUNNERS-UP: Marcus, goris, Dogmeat, and the Skynet-bot. Marcus is the favorite here, since the sorts of weapons he uses will be effective against even the worst power armor, and he can take a couple of plasma shots and keep going. goris' and Dogmeat's physical attacks aren't too thrilling against power armor, but he can still hold his own. The Skynet-bot can only use pistols and small rifles, which aren't too effective on Enclave troopers.
  • IF NO ONE ELSE IS AVAILABLE:Lenny, the robot-dogs. Nothing thrilling, but they can still do some damage and take some beating. Since all of your front line is wearing power-armor, Lenny should be in Combat, Tesla or Brotherhood armor. If you should find an extra set, give Lenny power armor too.
  • IF YOU NEED SOMEONE TO CATCH BULLETS: Miria, Davin, Myron. If you've still got Myron tagging along, finish whatever science-related tasks you've got and dump him. I suppose if you should still have extra power armor laying around (that is, you drove away or got killed anyone competant) give it to them; anyone in power armor is good for absorbing damage. Just don't give them anything they could hurt you or your Brute Squad with.


Okay, that's it. Now go try out your new Brute Squad on New Reno. The acid-test is being able to take out the Bishop casino. Then you can work on the Sierra depot, the abandoned Military Base, and an easy romp through Wanamingo mine. After the game's done, why not exterminate every cop in NCR? Or Vault City? Keep your guns clean and your wounds bleeding.

The Ruptured Appendix: Changes for the 1.02D patch

After extensive research, development, and experiments involving novel new uses for old electrodes, it has been shown that the characters act a good bit differently with the newest patch. In the interest of accuracy and maintaining a sufficient body count, we briefly list them here:

  • Vic is pretty damn incompetent until you advance him a few levels. Until you level him up a bit, he won't be doing much more than running around the backfield of the battle and missing. However, he is still, in my opinion, worth keeping. Once you do level him up a bit, he quickly becomes the sniper we all know and love. It's pretty easy to tell when he hits this point, just keep a combat shotgun and a scoped hunting rifle in his inventory. When he chooses the rifle over the shotgun as "best weapon," you know he's ready to hurt people. His combat orders are still best as "on your own" distance and "the weakest" or "whoever you want" as targets. Unfortunately, about the same time he becomes a competant gunman, he will lose his ability to repair things.
  • Sulik also seems less competent at the start. He's still a good man in a fight, but it seems he needs a level or three before he gets to be the truly vicious fighter we're accustomed to.
  • Cassidy is much, much meaner now. He's competing with Sulik as my favorite member of the Brute Squad. However, his combat orders often revert from a "charge" distance order to his default "on your own." However, he seems much less likely to blow fellow brute squad members away than he once was, so this isn't as bad as it could be.
  • Gauss ammo is easier to come by. You can probably safely equip one more member with gauss weapons (say, Cassidy, or give yourself a gauss pistol in reserve) and have a good chance of finding enough ammunition to keep them firing. In fact, apparently all shopkeepers update faster now, so you should also have an easier time finding that caseless and 14mm ammo some of you freaks like.
  • Everyone seems a bit more considerate. NPC's seem to be a bit more careful about burst-firing around you and even other NPC's, and friendly-fire deaths are way down. It seems a good deal safer to let burst-firing personnel use that "on your own" combat order, but I'd still recommend against it.
  • Stealing weapons is much more difficult, particularly those Bozars on the guards outside NCR. For some reason, the game designers think it should be difficult to palm a five-foot, 30-pound MMG off the guard who's got it on a shoulder strap with his finger on the trigger.
  • And to those who asked, my secret for jump-starting your game: in Klamath, get the pipe gun and ammo out of the back of Vic's place. As soon as you get that, hop down to the Den and use it on Flick, the trader in the house of junkies across from Laura's gang. That will give you some sort of leather armor and several weapons... you can use these to take out Tubby and get even more. This will give you a big leap forward in yer equipment, and possibly an SMG for when you head back to Klamath to pick up Sulik. Granted, this won't help yer reputation in the Den, but with the ghost quest and such you can get it back up to a half-decent state.