Fallout Noir

Those of you who have been around here a while are aware I’m a big fan of the computer games Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas. Fallout 4 has been announced, and already it is providing inspiration. How is that possible, you might ask, given that we know next to nothing about the story? It’s the imagery that has piqued my interest.

One of the initial pics from Fallout 4 had me thinking of F:NV. F:NV is a mix of the post-apocalyptic and western genres. This image made me think that Fallout 4 would also mix genres, specifically post-apocalyptic and noir. Given that I’ve published a sword & sorcery noir, you can imagine how this might have grabbed my interest. So what about post-apocalyptic noir?

The one aspect of noir that I think is important is an urban setting. Post-apocalyptic adventures don’t really need urban centres. In fact, most work without them. Fallout, though, has regular urban areas of different sizes, from towns to cities. These are represented in the computer game by groups of buildings and characters of varying sizes, but all much smaller than the populace they are to denote. New Vegas is actually a pretty small geographic area, but one can imagine that it indicates one of the larger urban areas in shattered North America. Rivet City in Fallout 3 is the same.

With examples like those, and the urban density the image seems to suggest, it is easy to imagine cities with governments and rudimentary law enforcement in this setting. Most of the plots and macguffins of hardboiled detective fiction could be ported into such a world as easy as they could a sword & sorcery one.

You could easily take your standard travelling group of troubleshooters that are regularly getting into messes as they move between points of light in the wasteland and bolt that onto hardboiled plots. Imagine something like Raymond Chandler’s the High Window, in which the characters are hired to find a treasure their employer believes was stolen by an estranged daughter-in-law. This could totally work, and work well, in New Vegas or Rivet City. Instead of a rare coin, it could be a piece of technology – though this would make a couple of the twists in the story a little bit difficult.

There’s also something like the Dashiell Hammett novel the Thin Man, in which Nick and Nora Charles investigate a dead body and get involved in a pretty messed up family. The key points of the mystery and the family would work just as well in a post-apocalyptic setting.

Just take a look at that picture and try to figure out the story behind it. I’m pretty sure it includes corrupt officials, femme fatales/homme horribles, criminals, and snappy dialogue.

You can find out more about the Fallout series here.

You can find Sword Noir: A Role-Playing Game of Hardboiled Sword & Sorcery at Amazon and DriveThru RPG.

You can find out more about the High Window here.

You can find out more about the Thin Man here.

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