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F04 Guide: Themed Settlements

  • Member
    February 23, 2017

    FO4 Guide: Themed Settlements

    By Amornar




    Greetings and salutations you beautiful patrons of the Vault! If you are reading this you have some interest in the world of Fallout 4. As such I will assume that you have at least a basic understanding about the game’s core mechanics and understand what I am talking about when I say settlement building or know at least a little bit about the game’s various factions. If not, I highly suggest you stop reading here and go Google or Youtube a basic guide on how settlement building works, how supply lines work, and other related topics…..Everyone good now? Awesome. Let's talk settlements!




    Realism and Purpose


    Alright boys and girls, the topic of the day is themed settlements. By this I mean settlements in your Fallout 4 playthrough that have some sort of macro scale organization to how and why they are built the way they are. Sounds simple right? It is! Themed settlements can be quite easy, but at the same time very detailed and in depth and can make a rather mundane playthrough reach new depths. Now the easiest and most obvious way in which to theme your settlements is to dress up your settlers randomly in your chosen factions clothing, add some appropriate flags, and call it a day. But I think we can do a little better than that…..


    First and foremost, and I think most important to remember when building your settlements is to keep them realistic. Now you might ask what exactly does this mean? Well in the real work settlements are historically built for purposes. In the modern day we possess the technology to settle virtually any climate or landscape, but in the past this was not the case. Settlements were built on rivers for trade, travel and resources. Fortified settlements in strategic locations such as hilltops or mountain passes were built to protect a region. Maritime settlements built into coves and natural harbors helped to shield docked ships from the harsh elements of ocean storms while still being capable of easily sending and receiving trade. Now you go, Amornar, hey, dude, the settlements in Fallout 4 are already in place you can’t stick them next to a river or a harbor or a hilltop. Exactly. Settlements are already defined for you (unless you use mods in which case more freedom and power to you!) and thus you need to access the values each of them has. Bunker Hill exists where it does because it is a central location near bridges over bodies of water, a key crossing point for those moving north to south, but also trying to move east to west near the greater Boston area. Diamond City is built in the ruined walls of Fenway because it was a fortified position for those original survivors of the Great War to keep out the terrors of the wasteland. 


    Let's take a few settlements as examples of this concept. Red Rocket Truckstop is perhaps the most iconic settlement in game rivaled only but Sanctuary just across the river. This is a small settlement build area with not a terrible amount of dirt. Not a very good farming themed settlement is it? It is however on the road, near the river crossing to Sanctuary which has the space to be a very large northern settlement. Building Red Rocket as something like a Minutemen outpost that watches the approach for the big settler community with lots of farming, markets and population at Sanctuary just makes sense. Abernathy Farm on the other hand is a much better farming settlement as it is very large, flat, lots of dirt, little space is taken up by the existing structure. It should be little surprise as this is literally what it was designed to be by Bethesda.

    Those settlements should be pretty obvious though, let's try a few harder ones. Hangman’s Alley, while not on a major avenue, it is close to Diamond City. Very little access to water and farming plots. Small build area too and you can’t build terribly high in the alleyway. Not a very easy place to use, but the proximity to Diamond City is nice if those settlers had something to buy or sell in the big city. Here I would suggest a “unique theme” settlement….more on that later, you’ll see, keep reading…. Jamaica Plains is a very central southern settlement with great placement on major travel paths between the north, south, east and west sections of the Commonwealth. Just like Bunker Hill it would make sense that these settlers would be in a great location to capitalize on trade. Why do you think Quincy just next door did so good before the Gunners attacked it? I’ll touch on a few more settlements and some pros and cons about them below but I think at this rate you get the general idea. Look at the terrain and resources available to you and let that dictate your individual settlement’s themes and even layouts.



    Organization, Structure, and General Tips


    Alright, now that we know we need to give each of our settlements a purpose we can start planning our settlement system’s structure. For this I highly suggest keeping a notepad, spreadsheet or other organizational tool to help chart out your settlements. What purpose does the settlement have? Is it a trade town, a defensive outpost, or an entertainment hub? Thinking how these settlers make a living, how they make their caps will help make sure each of your settlements has a purpose. Next does that settlement have a faction they follow (in a roleplay sense)? Maybe they have an NPC (RP) leader in the form of one of your companions; more on that later. Who do these settlers trade with? This is very important for setting up realistic supply lines. If you have a raider settlement they are probably not going to trade with innocent farms. They would however trade with other raiders, or maybe gunners, who themselves might trade with something like Bunker Hill where they are known to have raider ties by paying off raiders for protection. Remember, keep to realism and this will help your immersion greatly.


    To this effect plan regionally. Raider Red Rocket and Minuteman Sanctuary could never work in an immersive playthrough. But perhaps a raider gang controls multiple settlements down south and are a danger coming into the reaches of south Boston as they control settlements like Murkwater, Egret Tours, and Jamaica Plains. Maybe the Brotherhood of Steel controls the settlements around the airport where they are headquartered and thus control Nordhagen, County Crossing, and of course the airport itself. Keep a map of the settlements handy as you keep your spreadsheet of settlements and update it as you build. This will also help with your supply lines that link these regional areas in ways that make sense. Plan ahead too. If you plan to put that big trade town in at Jamaica Plans and link all your supply lines to your other settlements the traffic of provisioners wandering in and out of Jamaica Plains will be woefully low. If instead you have four, five, maybe six different provisioners constantly visiting, along with a tent for the NPC caravans to stop at, your trade town will feel alive with the hustle and bustle of commerce. 


    As we move from the regional level into the actual settlements remember your realism. People aren't going to build crazy high structures on difficult spots. They will take the path of least resistance to get their goal.  If there is a hilltop in your settlement this is likely where your settlers would build a defensive tower, it is already the tallest point around. If there is water in your settlement your settlers are probably not building vast platforms out across the water, they are going to build on land where it is easier and quicker to build. That said if you want to do something crazy make sure it makes sense. If you want to build the overpass up at Finch Farm perhaps this was done for defense and literally almost nothing is built on the bottom level of the settlement and the little pre-built shack is nothing but a shelter for the base level guard area to guard the entrance to the lifts that reach the overpass settlement. Lastly I will segway into how your settlement’s faction loyalty might influence your settlement purpose which will play into our last section. Now if you are building a Brotherhood settlement, they are probably not opening up shop with a couple dozen vendor stands and provisioners wandering in left and right. They are going to take a militaristic approach. A Brotherhood settlement might be an armory, a barracks for soldiers, or a supply depot (great airport options). Or maybe your BOS settlement is a forward base that holds a garrison of troops somewhere important like Hangman’s Alley to keep watch over Diamond City, or Somerville Place to guard against dangers wandering out of the Glowing Sea. 


    Perhaps you want to do some Institute settlements. Great, well the Institute has survived for centuries by hiding in the earth, far from the touch of those above ground and safe performing their experiments. Why would the Institute build any settlements? Well let’s take our realism approach. First, settlements are highly unluckily to be built until after the conclusion of the main quest and the safety of the Institute is secured and its enemies destroyed. Then, with your new found power (from an RP standpoint) over the direction the Institute takes perhaps you then order above ground operations that make it necessary for permanent locations to be built. Now we still want to build settlements that have a purpose that makes sense for the Institute to be involved with. An agricultural research settlement (Bethesda sure thought this was a good idea), a place to gather and collect the flora and fauna of the wasteland with rows of cages holding deathclaws, ghouls, and more from the Wasteland Workshop DLC cages but having no arena applications. If you have the Vault-Tec DLC using Vault 88 as an entire research complex is a great idea. Don’t forget to dress your settlers accordingly too. Synth armor and courser gear for your guards, synth uniforms for your basic grunts, and lab coats for your overseer guys. For the Brotherhood make sure you have a mix of settlers dressed as scribes and knights doing appropriate activities. Don't just assign random equipment to different people think about your settlers as individuals. Bob is a poor farmer what would he own? Jennie is a skilled young surgeon manning your medic stand what would she look like? Below I hope to collect lots of ideas from the community that can help tie settlement purposes with faction identities.


    Faction List and Unique Themes


    Now up to this point I am sure many of you have created a settlement themed around being allied to the Minutemen or Brotherhood. However, how many of you have created a Children of Atom settlement, or a Gunners settlement. What about a Triggerman settlement? Or a trapper settlement on Far Harbor? Despite what some might say, Fallout 4 has a rich depth of factions and groups we can draw inspiration from. If you think of any I have missed please share!


    Independent- This is your Abernathy Farm, Finch Farm, Tenpines Bluff base factions from Bethesda where we just have some non-aligned peaceful people trying to live their lives.





    Main Factions- This is your Railroad, Minutemen, Brotherhood of Steel and Institute. Any faction you can end the game with and who has major settlement items, locations, and equipment associated with them. These are your “easy” themes that most of us have played with before.












































    Locations- Diamond City, Bunker Hill, Covenant. Here we have factions tied to places that perhaps have branched out. Diamond City security HQ in Hangman’s Alley, copy cat Covenant at Taffington Boathouse, or Bunker Hill’s new hub at County Crossing.




    Raiders!- One of my favorite faction types if you follow any of my builds. Raiders allow so much creative freedom with what they can offer the builder who wants to go beyond the happy innocent settler’s option. Specific groups like Nuka-World’s Disciples, Operators, and the Pack, along with other groups like the Forged from Saugus Ironworks (taken over Finch Farm maybe?) or the Rust Devils from Automatron with lots of scrap bots doing all their manual labor and defenses. Trappers from Far Harbor are essentially the same thing and a great raider choice for a coastal settlement or a settlement on the Island from the DLC.


    DLC- This is a good spot to highlight some DLC factions like the Far Harbor faction itself. Not the DLC but the physical town of Far Harbor on the Island. These are basically vanilla settlers but in a fishy smelling wrapper with lots of great settlement items that can really dress up vanilla coastal options. Likewise factions like the Children of Atom who have very strong aesthetics and equipment options open the player to build a fortress monastery for Atom’s chosen. Even building a settlement based on the synth colony of Acadia can be an interesting build that echos something like a Railroad settlement might, but with different options for flair. Stick Nick there and it is like he has joined DiMa as his second. Vault 88 could also fall into this category where they have heavily themed options from Bethesda that can dictate a vault themed settlement as...surprise, a vault themed settlement!




















    Misc.- Here are some other options that don’t quite fit into a nice group with other factions. Maybe you love the Atom Cats and build up Warwick with a new branch of the cats complete with greaser gear, power armor, and an open mike for poetry night.

    Gunners, super mutants (stick Strong here with some mutant hounds from Ericson in Far Harbor, and caged super mutants from the Wasteland Workshop DLC), Gunners with lots of military gear and items, perhaps on an overpass at Graygarden or Finch Farm like many of the game’s Gunner outposts sit in the vanilla game. Triggermen can even make a cool settlement maybe using the Slog as a basis with all their ghouls making chems for the player to sell in character in Goodneighbor, Diamond City, etc.



     Unique Settlements- Individuals, no not a separate theme for each settlement...err well kinda….. individual meaning NPC. Perhaps Hancock heads your chem making settlement, whereas McCready runs a Gunner-esque merc settlement that catches all sorts of Wasteland Workshop DLC monsters for you. Maybe Cait gets her own arena ten times better than the combat zone that you build for her to make your cap hungry character some extra money. Curie gets an Institute themed laboratory in a settlement built from Vault-tec DLC parts (or mods!), or maybe Preston just gets to oversee the Castle for you. Doesn’t have to be a companion either. Maybe you build your Red Rocket as a research station for Sturges to pour over his work at to better help the Minutemen’s efforts but it is safely away from the population of your northern capital settlement at Sanctuary. Or maybe it is smaller scale and Sturges just gets a lab at the Castle where his assigned bed is located and his assigned job is set to. You can even get more creative where you have a small settlement with a small group of settlers. Perhaps you take all the comic book costumes in the game and have a lair at Hangman’s Alley for the Unstoppables to gather with the Silver Shroud, Grognak the Barbarian, the Mistress of Mystery, the Inspector, and Manta Man all living there. In the same vein perhaps you build a Mechanist Lair truly befitting a bigger and better Mechanist who works to build your army of robots for you to command to your settlements for your mechanical empire to topple the Commonwealth on your behalf. Or maybe your settlement is themed to you, the playthrough character concept you are playing as and it is just the one super themed settlement you are using this playthrough.




    The options are really endless and you can have two settlements of the same faction look and feel totally different based upon their location, their purpose, the items you build with, and the equipment you gear your settlers with. Please, please, please post all of your ideas, pictures or other input to help the community with feedback and inspiration for their own settlements. I think the settlement building is an under appreciated mechanic of the game and I think it is a really integral part of getting really great value out of your playthroughs and help to make a character build fit into the world of Fallout to a degree I often feel is missing when I run characters who do little to no settlements. Lastly I will say thank you and I truly appreciate your patience with reading this far and hope you enjoyed the article and got something out of it. Good luck and have fun building!

  • Member
    February 24, 2017

    Really enjoyed reading this Amornar, thanks for the work that very evidently went into it

    I've just started a brand new character who is going delve into settlements in a really deep way (I've only dabbled up to this point) and this article has given me lots of food for thought

    Out of interest, which of the many YouTubers who cover settlement building do you most admire and why?

  • Member
    February 24, 2017
    Thanks Paul! I really love the settlement system and I hope I can get others to love it too. As for Youtubers watch mostly Norespawns and Oxhorn. Norespawns does mostly build videos about actual buildings and construction tips that really push me to think outside the box. For example his videos about building a church from the barn walls from Far Harbor is what inspired my Children of Atom Cathedral Monastary you can find above in my pictures. His videos can help you take your settlements from boring to really interesting by teaching to mix textures, materials, etc. He is also a big fan of realism and making sure things look like they could function- I.e. No floating floors and such. Oxhorn, in addition to his wonderful lore videos, does whole settlement tours. He has his live streams recorded often where you can watch him build very detailed settlements with mods, lots of decorations, etc. He is great for theme ideas and decoration ideas. That said there are lots of other great YouTube people that do or have done great Fallout build videos but those two are great because they are still active and post virtually every day. Hope that helps!
  • Member
    February 26, 2017
    Wow awesome thanks work! I really enjoyed settlement building and got away from it recently. Might have to dive back in.
  • Member
    February 26, 2017
    If you do post some images of your settlements. Every picture above is from one of my various save games.
  • Member
    February 26, 2017

    Amornar said: If you do post some images of your settlements. Every picture above is from one of my various save games.
    That's amazing! Yeah I've actually always wanted to do a video walkthrough of my one save. I have a character I call "The Homemaker" and she was my test new workshop dlc" save. So I created quite an impressive place on Spectacle Island. But I never finished it! When I do, I'll do a video walkthrough. I did build a functioning Dealthclaw arena over by the old house. I'd trap Gunners and Deathclaws and let them into the arena via powered doors. I'm pretty proud of that one. There's theatre seating and everything lol. 

  • Member
    February 26, 2017
    That's pretty cool! I've always wanted to learn how to do videos and start posting some but still haven't got around to it. Maybe one day.
  • February 26, 2017
    Wow!! This is a seriously impressive and well-thought out guide, Armonar! Very nicely done. Definitely bookmarking this one for future playthroughs. :D
  • Member
    February 26, 2017
    Aww everyone is too kind, thanks!
  • Member
    February 26, 2017

    After reading this, I'm tempted to post some more videos of my settlements. Well that is if I can actually get around to building them.