Fallout 76’s huge fan war is a fight against nukes, glitches, and raiders

The Whitesprings Resort has always been a player hub in Fallout 76, but one night, it lit up for an especially important affair. Eight organizations took over the entire building for a massive dinner party. Players dressed as waiters to serve food, provided entertainment by playing the piano, and stood at the doors to make a show of checking bags as security. Raiders dressed as hideous mothmen stood next to white tie socialites, chatting over Nuka Colas.

These same players would later end up in massive battles, all of which are carefully documented through fan-made machinimas and front line reports. At least, that’s what happens when combat in Fallout 76 works as intended. Some battles end up abandoned midway through thanks to technical hiccups, like the one where player’s armor suddenly refused to work against normal sniper shots.

One roleplay community leader, Jesse Jewell, says he’s had a “hell of a good time” with Fallout 76’s PvP in the past, but its current state is struggling. “The problem is that PvP right now is so broken, in certain instances, that you pretty much have to cut out half of the gameplay functionality in order to do anything,” he said in a call with Polygon. “If you use VATS with certain weapon types, it breaks your damage gap and you can one hit somebody no matter what their build is. It’s not fun if you can press a button to auto aim and insta-kill somebody from across the map, right?”

Such are the woes of playing a multiplayer Bethesda game, and while these technical difficulties are omnipresent, they haven’t dissuaded fans from acting out complex warfare scenarios.

Several of these factions have been embroiled in a long-running role-play war, which so far has included assassination attempts, a public trial for a notorious raider boss, and back-and-forth battles across Appalachia. But as Fallout 76 marches forward, growing increasingly sophisticated, the game’s PvP scene struggles, and the game’s most dedicated players are being forced to adapt.

One such group, The Five-0 New Responders, takes cues from the similarly-named faction in Fallout 76, which, according to the lore, died out due to a plague. But players are continuing the Responder’s mission by giving aid and support to the people of the Wasteland. They’ve also continued the old faction’s war with the scum of the wasteland, those who might raid and pillage. And raiding happens to be The Vultures’ specialty.

The Vultures are the most powerful Raider gang in the roleplay community. While the group made headlines after its leader, The Warlord, got tried and convicted in an in-game roleplay court, another player, Condor, has stepped up to continue the fight. The conflict between The Vultures and The Responders has become tense enough that the good Samaritans have created a tentative alliance with the Enclave, another roleplay group that acts out what it’s like to be the last remaining representation of the U.S. government. And famously, the Enclave are also longtime Fallout franchise villains.

The Fallout role-play community, like most for big fandoms, is balkanized into various groups who had different interpretations of the lore and what constitutes fun roleplay. If you want, say, the Brotherhood of Steel to show up during your long war and act as an ally or antagonist, you want to make sure everyone agrees on what the Brotherhood of Steel is — and sometimes that’s not an easy task, with decades of history and multiple games spanning across the Fallout franchise, by different studios and developers.

Any battles that unfold also end up having an effect on the larger meta narrative, which all players have to agree about. Factions gain and lose ground across Appalachia. Settlements are destroyed. Characters like the imprisoned Warlord can’t show up at the next battle, because everyone agrees that he was imprisoned and has to abide by that.

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