The Special System

SPECIAL refers to the Character Creation System developed for the Fallout series of video games. SPECIAL is also the character creation system for the two systems developed within this wiki, the d10 SPECIAL system and the d20 SPECIAL system.


Back during the development of Fallout, the creators had originally planned to use the GURPS system for RPGs developed by Steve Jackson Games. When SJG discovered how violent the Fallout games were going to be, however, they revoked the opportunity to use their license, fearing PR… Fallout.

At this time, Tabletop RPGs were being lambasted as the newest form of evil corrupting the minds and bodies and spiritual essences of people all across this land, and a link to a violent First Person Shooter (the newest and greatest form of evil about to corrupt the minds and bodies and spiritual essences of people all across the land). This type of PR Steve Jackson Games most definitely didn't need!

Chris Taylor, Jesse Heinig and Tim Cain, developers for Fallout, then created the SPECIAL system to fill the gap. As GURPS was only really going to be used for character creation, and since the game universe was owned by Interplay and consisted of it's own system of rules, replacement with a new system wasn't too hard at all.

Character Development

Tabletop RPG systems can be broken into various modules:

  • The Character Creation System
  • The Arbitration Engine
  • The Monster Codex
  • The Scenario Guide
  • Gamemaster's Guide

SPECIAL is a Character Creation Engine. It's a series of rules used to design standardized characters with numerical scores that can be used by The Arbitration Engine to decide how various actions and objects interact.

The Arbitration Engines developed on this site are the d10 SPECIAL and d20 SPECIAL systems. They use the stats generated by SPECIAL to decide how game objects interact with each other.

The Monster Codex, and the Scenario Guide define the game universe that uses the Character Creation System and Arbitration Engines to tell a story.

The Gamemaster's Guide contains general information and advice for the Gamemaster, who's job it is to referee the combination of the other four parts

Components of SPECIAL


SPECIAL is named after the initial characters of the seven character attributes tracked by the system. (Technically, it should be spelled S.P.E.C.I.A.L., but frankly, that gets annoying very quickly.)

  • Strength - Used for arbitrating physical actions
  • Perception - Used for deciding what characters can see and notice
  • Endurance - Used to determine the character's vitality and ability to operate while under a load
  • Charisma - Used during dialogs with NPCs
  • Intelligence - Used for calculating a character's success when operating equipment or speaking intelligently
  • Agility - Used for dodge saves and other high-speed maneuvers
  • Luck - A special modifier for die rolls and a check against serendipitous events.

For details on how to create a character in the SPECIAL system, read SPECIAL Character Creation Guide.

In the d20 SPECIAL system, character stats are static, and can only be modified by special Perks (see Below). Extra "training" in specific abilities are taken care of with Skills (see below).

In the d10 SPECIAL system, character stats are a bit more fluid, as the arbitration engine is highly simplified.


SKILLS are used by the SPECIAL system to define the abilities of a character. If Player Stats are the "talent" of the character, then Skills are the "trained abilities" of a character that expand upon the basic talents.

"Skills" are used when deciding the success of a Player Character in tackling a task. Skills are only really used in the d20 SPECIAL system, as the d10 SPECIAL system uses a highly simplified system based strictly on character scores.

A few skills are "universal" and are defined by the SPECIAL system. They are:

Skill Name Chief Attribute Description
Barter Intelligence Useful when negotiating prices with venders. Includes the ability to appraise merchandise and detect good deals.
Big Arms Strength Ability to use Big Class ranged weapons
Climb Agility Useful when you need to move over a surface that doesn't support regular walking.
Focus Intelligence A skill which allows you to block out external stimuli and pay attention to the task at hand.
Craft* Intelligence Ability to create game objects.
Disguise Charisma Useful for when you want people to believe you are somebody else.
Entertain* Charisma Your ability to raise spirits, in the morale sense.
Escape Agility Getting out of straightjackets, ropes, handcuffs, and coffins suspended over pools of acid filled with sharks and spikes.
Forgery Perception Lying on paper.
Gather Intel Charisma Ability to gather information and intelligence about areas and people from documents and testimony.
Intimidation Strength Giving NPC's offers they can't refuse
Jump Strength Clearing obstacles by jumping.
Knowledge* Intelligence Various skills that show superior knowledge in a specific topic.
Legerdemain Agility Lying with objects. Ability to use slight-of-hand. Can be used as a performance, like Entertain, but only on small groups.
Listen Perception Pay attention to the noises of your environment.
Lying* Charisma Any kind of "lying" or tricking activity. Also useful for discerning if the other party is lying.
Medecine Intelligence Skills related to healing
Melee Fighting Strength Ability to fight without weapons or with a short range "whacking" weapon
Repair Intelligence Ability to mend or repair equipment, and the ability to disable and dismantle equipment.
Ropes Agility Handiness when tying ropes and utilizing ropes for rigging, grappling hooks, etc.
Science* Intelligence Ability to research and process data. (This is used when using a technological scanning device, not Search.)
Search Perception Ability to physically scan an environment, while looking for something.
Small Arms Agility Ability to use Small Class ranged weapons
Sneak Agility Ability to move silently and use available camouflage and lighting to your advantage.
Speech Charisma All speaking skills where you are not trying to Bluff, such as diplomacy.
Spot Perception The ability to see something while not actively looking for it (compare with Search).
Swim Endurance Ability to navigate fluids when you have to actively keep yourself buoyant.
Tumble Agility Rolling past an enemy. Can be used to entertain.
Translate Intelligence Useful for converting between languages, understanding jargon, and deciphering codes.

Skills marked with an asterisk mean that this skill is actually comprised of multiple specilized skills. For example, Craft (Guns) and Lying (Congressional Style). Actual "subskills" are defined in a game's Scenario Guide, as they are informed by the specific game universe (such as Craft (Electronics)).

A Scenario Guide can add skills to the list above (such as Computers) when a skill would be common in the game's universe. Uncommon skills that go above and beyond what even normal PC's would be expected to learn should instead be Perks (see below).

These skills appear in almost all scenarios that may use the SPECIAL system.

Specifics of how skills are used are dependent on the "Arbitration Engine" being used. For example, the d10 SPECIAL is more generic; it assumes that all skills are known and use a simple die roll based on a character's attribute to decide if a skill succeeds. The d20 SPECIAL system, on the other hand, tracks skill points for various skills and uses a more complex formula to decide if a skill works.


Perks are extraordinary abilities for characters, which go to define a specific character more than skills. While skills can be trained, Perks are earned through extraordinary efforts by PCs. It's expected that PCs will know many many skills, but have very few perks.

Perks are more specific to campaign universes than Skills are.

Perks generally make a massive difference in how skills are used. Some perks modify the base character ability scores, while other perks modify the skill calculation in more fundamental ways.


Traits are central to the character. They define quirks of a character that stand out from the norm for that character's type and class. Some traits depend on the universe that the character lives in, but some are system wide. For example:

  • Perkolate - Recieve perks every 4 levels instead of every 3 in exchange for 5 extra skill points.
  • Perkacide - Give up one perk when developing your character in exchange for 5 extra skill points during development.
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