Meet the ‘Fallout 76’ Player Chronicling the Wasteland

Despite its troubled launch and ongoing issues, Fallout 76 has managed to develop a passionate community of fans and players. From murder mystery nights to fight clubs, there’s always something happening. Recently, while searching Twitter, I stumbled across a Wasteland Bestiary created by a Fallout 76 fan. The Fallout-themed art book is the work of California-based fan artist Drunkfu/Shia, who has been translating his adventures in the game into comic books and beautifully illustrated journals for the rest of us to enjoy. 

Setting The World On Fire

Like many, Shia’s introduction to the Fallout series was Fallout 3. The game’s 1950s aesthetic, assortment of irradiated monsters, and ability to explore post-apocalyptic versions of real world locations immediately appealed to him. When he got to Fallout: New Vegas, that last feature of the series ended up resonating on a more personal level.

“I never really cared for the desert and the southwest until playing Fallout: New Vegas,” Shia tells me. “Then suddenly staying in Joshua Tree Park and driving by the Cabazon dinosaurs was super cool… and I found myself looking into a lot of the films that inspired the series and loving that sort of stuff too. Like the Mad Max movies, A Boy and His Dog, Six String Samurai, and the like.” 

When Fallout 76 came out, Shia joined his online friend Turtle, who he met back in his time playing the superhero MMO City of Heroes. Together they exited Vault 76 and embarked on a journey into the Appalachian wasteland.

Fallout 76 was just a great excuse to play a Fallout game with my best friend Turtle,” Shia says. “Things just got carried away.”

Shia documented their post-apocalyptic adventures in the webcomic You Got Overseen and also in a journal series called The Vault Dweller’s Diary. While You Got Overseen is drawn in a cute chibi-style, The Vault Dweller’s Diary features sketches and paintings, with text logs about Shia and Turtle’s experiences in the wasteland. The initial inspiration for these projects was actually one of Fallout 76’s technical limitations. At launch, the game didn’t have text chat, which meant it was tough for Shia and Turtle to role play in the game’s world. So, as a compromise, Shia started to produce artwork, riffing off of the pair’s adventures.

In these stories, Shia and Turtle are survivors from Vault 76 trying to locate other humans and begin rebuilding Appalachia. However, they quickly realize that the wasteland isn’t as cozy as they first imagined, as they encounter cryptids, the zombie-like Scorched, and trigger-happy players. There are also tons of smaller references to the player experience in Fallout 76, including a funny nod in You Got Overseen to the Port-A-Diners found strewn across the wasteland, which sometimes gift lucky players with a perfectly preserved pie. 

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Beware Of The Cryptids

After completing The Vault Dweller’s Diary, Shia came up with another idea for a project: a complete bestiary documenting Fallout 76’s creatures and wildlife. The game is crawling with tons of irradiated animals and folkloric beasts, which Shia decided to catalogue in great detail across the bestiary’s many pages. Much like the Vault Dweller’s Diary, this book is comprised of lots of information, as well as doodles and detailed paintings. For those who have just picked up the game, it acts as a perfect primer to the Appalachian wasteland, familiarizing you with the wildlife that lurks in the region’s many diverse biomes.

“I’d kinda gotten used to making paintings and entries at that point, and decided I’d do a more stretched out thing once a week that became the Bestiary book,” says Shia. “I wasn’t as in a rush as the Vault Dweller’s Journal so the bestiary took maybe five or six months to get out. But I think the art came out a lot nicer. As for inspiration I think I may have looked at some Dungeons and Dragons bestiary pages for inspiration on the style — but the sketches and doodles on the side are heavily inspired by the diaries in Life is Strange.”

Each page of the bestiary comes with key information about the creature, as well as tiny drawings in the margins that depict Shia and Turtle’s encounters with these animals. Some of these are inspired by real run-ins they had in-game and sometimes they include references to hilarious bugs they’ve experienced, such as one entry that describes a brush with some invisible bees.

“There was a glitch that made a swarm of bees invisible and one time I looked over at my friend Turtle and she was running around swatting at nothing,” Shia says. “Another time, we got attacked by a wendigo that was selectively invisible to my friend. Most of the information and stuff were just gags we came up together with or researched when coming up with ideas for the bestiary pages. Sometimes the info was a mixture of real life versions of the creature’s biology and in-game info, like where they’re located and tend to spawn or in-game weaknesses combined with the real-life versions’ weight and the number of teeth.” 

The West Virginia Wasteland Bestiary was initially made available as a download, but there have since been a few print copies published too. The community response to the project has been overwhelmingly positive, with fans admiring the beautiful presentation and the stories contained within the journals.

“The fo76FilthyCasuals reddit and discord have been really great in getting the word out and supporting the project, as well as the community directors like LadyDevann,” Shia notes. “When I first finished up that 76 page journal, I sent a copy to the Fallout people and they were nice enough to send me back an awesome gift pack. I also have to give special thanks to the Bethesda lead art guy @NPurkeypile who’s been nice enough to repost a lot of my stuff.”

Shia is far from finished. He has a ton of other ideas for Fallout-themed projects, including a mechanical bestiary called the Watoga Technical Manual and a Vault-Tec University book.

While Fallout 76 has been plagued by controversies and issues since its release, the fan community constantly surprises me with its passion and creativity. It seems there’s just something about the Appalachian wasteland that sparks player imaginations. And maybe this passion isn’t in spite of the game’s problems — maybe it’s because of them. After all, Shia’s projects began because Fallout 76 didn’t have text chat to support role playing with his friend. Limitations inspire creativity, and Fallout 76′s might explain, in part, the range of incredible works the game’s players have created in, around, and about it.

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