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Jack Of All Builds [Great For Hardcore] – Fallout New Vegas

Fallout New Vegas Builds

This is a guide on basic character creation that gives a semi optimised build and examples for different gun based playstyles. This is an updated guide that lays out the SPECIAL stats, traits, perks to look out for based on build, and general new game information. The other guides (Especially that “Hardcore” guide) are out of date or contain incorrect (un-optimised) information.

Spell it with me! S.P.E.C.I.A.L.

S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stands for:

  • Strength
  • Perception
  • Endurance
  • Charisma
  • Intelligence
  • Agility
  • Luck

Well we know what they are, but what do they do?


In New Vegas strength modifies Melee Damage, Carry Weight, and Melee weapons. Your carry weight is 150 + (Strength * 10). With a starting strength of 5 your carry weight would be 200. Strength also affects the Melee skill and allows you to wield weapons with strength requirements effectively.


Governs the Explosives, Lockpick, and Energy Weapons skills. It also affects the distance at which enemies will show up on your radar. ED-E can do the latter just fine.


Endurance governs your resistances (poison, radiation), Hit Points (95 + (Endurance * 20) + (Level * 5), your Unarmed and Survival skills, and determines how many Implants you can install.


Charisma is the dump stat of Fallout: New Vegas. It governs your Speech and Barter skills and makes your (already overpowered) companions stronger. At 1 Charisma your companions have 5% more armor and deal 5% more damage, at 10 that rises to 50%. Boone kills most things in one shot either way.

Despite what people say, you can set this to 1 and re-distribute the points. Even Josh Sawyer (lead designer) considers it a dump stat. Many important dialogues that have speech checks also have alternate skill checks. The few that only offer speech checks are mainly ones that let you avoid a fight. Having 1 Charisma does not stop you from raising your Barter and Speech skills, however.


Considered by some the most important stat in New Vegas. It determines your Medicine, Repair, and Science skills. It also affects how many skill points you gain per level based on the formula 10 + (0.5 * Intelligence).

This means at the base Intelligence of 5 you will gain 12.5 skill points per level. But wait! .5 of a skillpoint? Does it round down? It puts the .5 aside until the next level, where you’ll have 13 skill points.

There are 13 skills and a total of 50 levels in the Ultimate Edition (30 in Vanilla with none of the DLC). At a rate of 12.5 skillpoints per level you will have over 600 skill points. Enough to max out a few skills. With an Intelligence of 8 you would gain 14 stat points per level. This is close to 700, and considering most skills will start in their 20s (and your tagged ones in the 40s, hopefully) it is more than enough points to max out nearly every skill.


Agility is a sneaky devil. It governs how many Action Points you have for VATs, the Guns, and Sneak skills, but also how fast it takes for you to draw, holster, and reload your weapon. Base AP is determined by 65 + (Agility * 3) and the reload time is modified in percentage by +10(5 – Agility)%. Any Agility score below 5 will result in slower reloading.


Luck? Well we are in Vegas, baby! Luck raises the value of every skill by 1 for every 2 levels. At 5 Luck all skills will be increased by +3. At 7 Luck all skills will be increased by +4.

Your Critical Chance is also affected by luck, at 1% per point. This means at 1 Luck you will have +1% Critical Chance, and at 10 Luck you will have +10% Critical Chance.

The basic “God Courier Of The Wastes”

It isn’t hard to make a strong character in New Vegas, and even this will depend on your playstyle.

Let’s start with the Special

Note: Do NOT take Intensive Training to raise any of your stats. It is a waste of a perk slot.

  • Strength – 6 (7 with Implant, 8 with Spineless (OWB))
  • Perception – 5 (6 with implant)
  • Endurance – 7 (8 with implant)
  • Charisma – 1
  • Intelligence – 8
  • Agility – 6 (7 with implant)
  • Luck – 7

With 3 implant slots left this allows you to get the sub-dermal armor implant and the monocyte breeder implant. Spend the last implant on whichever stat you want to boost. Lonesome Road will also give +1 to any stat.

  • Carry Weight = 150 + (6 * 10) = 210
  • Skill Points/level = 10 + (0.5 * 8) = 14
  • Poison Resistance = (7 – 1) * 5 = 25%
  • Radiation Resistance = (7 – 1) * 2 = 12%
  • Hit Points = 95 + (7 * 20) + (1 * 5) = 240
  • Implants available = 7

“Oh my god!” You may scream. “Why are there so many numbers?”. Well those are the important ones out of the way.


Fallout New Vegas Console

With the above SPECIAL your base skills should be as follows:

  • Barter – 8
  • Energy Weapons – 16
  • Explosives – 16
  • Guns – 18
  • Lockpick – 16
  • Medicine – 22
  • Melee – 18
  • Repair – 22
  • Science – 22
  • Sneak – 18
  • Speech – 8
  • Survival – 20
  • Unarmed – 20

You can tag 3 of these to give each one a 15 point boost. Pick based on your playstyle, or raise some of the lower numbers. I would suggest Guns, Sneak, and Lockpick, but that’s just how I play.

Alternative min/max no fun allowed build

  • Strength – 6 (7 with Implant, 8 with Spineless (OWB))
  • Perception – 5 (6 with implant)
  • Endurance – 9 (10 with implant)
  • Charisma – 1 (2 with implant if you have caps to burn)
  • Intelligence – 8 (9 with implant)
  • Agility – 6 (7 with implant)
  • Luck – 5 (6 with implant)

As before, get the sub-dermal armor implant and the monocyte breeder implant. Put the +1 from Lonesome Road into Agility or Luck.

Early game, feel free to stick with the legion at the beginning, at least until they love you enough to give you access to their Safehouse (Where the Lucky Shades are kept). You can still stab them in the back later on, and any negative NCR rep will be reset at a certain point in the story.

Starting stats:

  • Carry Weight = 150 + (6 * 10) = 210
  • Skill Points/level = 10 + (0.5 * 8) = 14
  • Poison Resistance = (9 – 1) * 5 = 40%
  • Radiation Resistance = (9 – 1) * 2 = 16%
  • Hit Points = 95 + (9 * 20) + (1 * 5) = 280
  • Implants available = 7

Skills and Traits


Has two perks associated with it: Pack Rat which halves the weight of items that weigh 2 pounds or more, and Long Haul which allows you to fast travel whilst over encumbered.

Lowers the price of bought items, and increases the price of sold items.

There are a fair amount of Barter skill checks in the game that mostly revolve around getting something cheaper, or getting a better reward. Even with a low Barter skill many can be passed by wearing a nice suit, popping a few mentats, having a beer, and reading the latest copy of Salesman Weekly. Don’t neglect it, but don’t pump it.

Energy Weapons

Affects the use of Energy Weapons, the effectiveness depending on the weapons skill requirement, and the damage output. Related perks are mostly Energy Weapons related with the exception of Run ‘n Gun.


Who doesn’t like a nice explosion every now and again? This affects the damage and effectiveness of explosives, and unlike FO3 includes grenade launchers, missile launchers, and the Fat Man. There are few skill checks with the highest in the base game being 60, although the majority are 50 or below. Most perks are explosive related with the main exception of Grunt.


The Guns skill determines the player’s accuracy and damage with every conventional gun. Majority of perks are Gun related. Has some skill checks throughout the game ranging from 40 to 50 points required.


Determines what locks you can pick. Has one associated perk: Infiltrator, which allows you to re-pick a broken lock. It is a useless perk as there is little point forcing a lock. It has two skill checks, both in Dead Money. Dead Money has many high level locks to begin with so it is beneficial to have a high lockpick before beginning the DLC.

Very Easy locks can be picked with 0 points in lockpick, Easy requires 25, Average requires 50, Hard requires 75, and Very Hard requires 100.


Your medicine skill affects how effective stimpaks and other medicines are. Stims are twice as effective at 50 medicine, and three times as effective at 100 medicine. Notable perks are Chemist (doubles the duration of chems) and Chem Resistant (offers 50% chem addiction resistance).

There are 15 Medicine skill checks in the game ranging from 20 to 75. They are normally based around helping people with illnesses or wounds. A medicine of 50 to 60 should be sufficient to pass all of the skill checks, with the higher ones requiring mentats and the relevant magazine (with Comprehension).


Damage and weapon effectiveness. Required for the Cowboy, Super Slam, Unstoppable Force, and Ninja perks. There are no skill checks to my knowledge.


You can repair any item to 100% regardless of your repair skill. The skill determines the efficiency of the repair, and a high repair skill will unlock new crafting recipes. At 90 repair the Jury Rigging perk becomes available, which allows a weapon to be repaired with any other weapon in its category.

There are 14 unique repair checks with the requirements ranging from 20 to 80.


Science is used for hacking terminals like Fallout 3, but it is also used for crafting chem and energy weapon related recipes at the workbench.

There are 19 Science skill checks in the game, ranging from 25 to 90. Most of them are 50 and 60.


Sneak is for sneaking. There are only 4 skill checks in the game, with two of them being related to Holdout weapons (weapons that you can take into a casino). The higher the skill the better you’ll sneak.


Speech is only used for Speech skill checks, and many are to avoid combat encounters.

I estimate about 50 Speech checks in the game, ranging from 15 to 100. Increase it steadily throughout the game, it can always be augmented with the Meeting People magazine, the right suit, alcohol, and Mentats.


Survival raises the effectiveness of food in terms of healing and benefits, unlocks many recipes at the campfire, and has at least 8 skill checks throughout the game. There are several perks, the most notable being Hunter.


Determines the effectiveness of Unarmed weapons. Notable perks are Piercing Strike (Enemies suffer -15 DT when you attack them with Melee OR Unarmed weapons) and Slayer which increases the speed of Melee and Unarmed attacks by 30%.


With the addition of Old World Blues many new traits were added in to New Vegas. This section covers the interesting ones. Unlike perks, traits have benefits and penalties attached to them.

Wild Wasteland

Wild Wasteland provides FO2 style “wacky” special encounters, with the main penalty being losing access to the YCS-186 Gauss Rifle (As the mercenaries that spawn with it are replaced with another encounter).

Good Natured

Provides a 5 point increase to the following non combat skills: Speech, Medicine, Repair, Science, and Barter. The penalty is a 5 point decrease from the following combat skills: Energy Weapons, Explosives, Guns, Melee Weapons, and Unarmed.

Skilled (Old World Blues)

Skilled pairs up with Good Natured nicely. It provides a 5 point increase to every skill which negates the penalty on Good Natured. The penalty is 10% less XP, however the game provides you with an extreme amount of experience points so this is negligible.

Logan’s Loophole (Old World Blues)

Logan’s Loophole doubles the duration of chems and makes addiction impossible. The penalty is a level 30 level cap. This can be circumvented by choosing the perk at the beginning of the game, then ditching it when you get to re-pick traits in Old World Blues. At this point there will be more methods of Chem resistance, and Old World Blues offers a special perk (one that does not cost a perk point) that provides a 25% resistance to chem addictions which stacks with the Chemist perk. If you’re planning on being a drug-addled hobo of the wastes, this may be the trait for you.

With the above information you should be able to build a character that suits your style of play. For more specialization and Perk choice recommendations please see the next section.

Perks by playstyle: Guns

Fallout 3 Perks

So you enjoy guns, huh? The satisfying *BANG* as the man in front of you is gibbed into a million pieces by your buckshot just can’t be beat.

This is not a hard guide, merely a recommendation. I’ll go through the first 22 levels of perks, after that you should have a good enough feel for your character to progress on your own. Don’t forget to read the “Perks To Avoid” section.

Level 2

Recommended choices:

  • Hunter – 75% more critical damage against animals and mutated animals. This can be useful against Geckos, Coyotes, and Radroaches at the start, Lakelurks later on in the game, and Yao Guai in Honest Hearts. Requires 30 Survival
  • Rapid Reload – Weapons reload 25% faster than normal. This can be useful for shotguns and other guns which don’t have a large magazine.

Level 4

Recommended choices:

  • Comprehension – Useful early on as it doubles the bonus from skill magazines. Take this if you can’t quite reach skill checks that you really want to make.
  • Cannibal – Do you enjoy eating people? Maybe not, but what if it restored health?
  • Entomologist – Useful against Cazadores and other mutated insects throughout the game. Cazadores will appear fairly frequently throughout your Mojave adventure. Requires 45 Survival

Level 6

  • Shotgun Surgeon – Ignore an additional 10 points of DT when using shotguns, regardless of ammunition used. Very useful if using shotguns. Requires 45 Guns
  • If not using shotguns and using one handed guns instead – Run ‘n Gun. It’s a level 4 perk but halves the spread of one handed guns when running or walking. Requires 45 Guns OR 45 Energy Weapons

Level 8

  • Cowboy – +25% damage done by dynamite, hatchets, knives, revolvers, and lever-action guns. This includes the Lever Action Shotgun. Requires 45 Guns AND 45 Melee
  • Grunt (Honest Hearts) – +25% damage done with 9mm and .45 Auto pistols and SMGs, service rifles, Assault and Marksman carbines, light machine guns, frag grenades, grenade rifles and launchers, and combat knives. Take this if you aren’t using shotguns. Requires 45 Guns AND 20 Explosives

Level 10

  • And Stay Back – Shotguns have a 10% chance, per pellet, of knocking an enemy back. This is incredibly useful when firing buckshot at Deathclaws. Requires 70 Guns
  • If not using shotguns – Finesse – +5% Critical Chance

Level 12

If you use VATS:

  • Sniper – 25% more likely to hit the target’s head in VATS. Requires 6 Perception and 6 Agility so be sure to have the Perception implant by this point. If not, choose the below perk.
  • Silent Running – Running whilst crouched doesn’t affect stealth. Requires 50 Sneak

If you do not meet the requirements for either of those, choose a perk that you think works with your play style (If you spend a lot of time in VATS: Commando)

Level 14

  • Jury Rigging – This perk allows you to repair an object with any object within its category. This allows you to repair the Dinner Bell with any other shotgun. Requires 90 Repair
  • Don’t have 90 repair? Light Step – You won’t set off traps. Requires 6 Perception and 6 Agility

Grab Jury Rigging as soon as you get 90 repair to continue keeping your favourite gun in good repair. And if you still haven’t gone and bought the perception implant, grab Adamantium Skeleton.

Level 16

  • Better Criticals – +50% damage with criticals
  • If you want to use bigger guns (Minigun sized) – Weapon Handling. After both Strength boosts you will be able to wield any weapon effectively.

Level 18

I won’t lie, the Level 18 perks are terrible. Feel free to go back and grab a perk from an earlier level that you passed. Definitely grab Jury Rigging if you missed it earlier.

Level 20

Level 20 is where it gets into personal opinion territory. Grim Reaper’s Sprint has been nerfed from Fallout 3, but feel free to choose it if you use VATS. Solar Powered would enable you to use heavy weapons if you skipped Weapon Handling, but only during the day. Explorer is nice if you want to have a nice tour of the Mojave. Pick one of the previous perks, or pick Explorer. Old World Blues introduces the “Them’s Good Eatin'” perk which is nice to take if you think you may run low on healing items.

Level 22

Nothing very interesting. Nuka Chemist (Requires 90 Science) if you want to be a Cola Wizard. Laser Commander if you switched to using energy weapons.

As you can tell, from here it is very much based on personal choice. The basics of your character are there, so feel free to pick any perks you find interesting from here on out.

Perks To Avoid

Fallout New Vegas Perks

  • Intensive Training – There are plenty of ways to raise stat points already. This is a waste of a perk slot.
  • Retention – Magazines will already last for the duration you need them. Dialogue pauses time and the magazines are mostly used to pass skill checks.
  • Swift Leaner – Not even to negate the XP penalty from skilled. The game throws a lot of XP at you as it is.
  • Here and Now – It’s not worth sacrificing a perk for an extra level up.
  • Life Giver – You can boost your hit points pretty high with implants and chems, an extra 30 hit points is not worth it. At max level (50) with 8 endurance your hit points would be around 500. 600 with the Thought You Died perk if it is taken with at least 1000 positive Karma.
  • Tag! – It boosts a skill by 15 points. Not very useful compared to other Perks.

Those are the main perks to avoid. Just use good judgment and you should be fine.

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