Last weekend, someone completed one of the most incredible Fallout 3 runs of all time. The rules for the permadeath playthrough were simple: One lifebar. No healing. No radiation treatments. No companions.
The YouTuber behind this hardcore madness is none other than Jon “Many A True Nerd,” the same man who beat Fallout New Vegas with a single life bar.You may also know him as the guy who managed to kill absolutely everyone inFallout 3. Obviously, Many A True Nerd is no stranger to Fallout, but you shouldn’t take this to mean Jon’s “You Only Live Once” playthrough of Fallout 3 was easy to complete. Far from it.
“Fallout 3 is much harder, mostly because it’s much more random,” Jon explained in an email. “New Vegas is complex but mostly predictable – it gives you mostly safe corridors to navigate the early game, and enemies have quite precise and small areas within which they have to stay.
“Fallout 3, by contrast, cheerfully spawns extremely dangerous enemies near common routes, and then lets them wander quite widely. There’s also the issue of the actual random events, meaning anything could spawn in front of you,” Jon explained. Another thing Jon has to keep an eye on in this run is radiation damage, something which is (annoyingly) present in pretty much every water source in the capital wasteland. As if that weren’t enough, Jon also chose to go through the game on hard mode, a version of Fallout 3 where the player deals only 75% of the damage they normally would and receives 150% more damage in return.
With such a daunting challenge in front of him, Jon planned the entire thing meticulously. First, he created a female character. While female characters are traditionally what Jon picks in his gimmick Fallout runs, this time, there was a practical reason for the choice. Playing as a woman means being able to pick up the “Black Widow” perk, an attribute that allows him to do 10% bonus damage to the opposite sex—and in Fallout 3, there are way more male enemies than there are female ones.
The character, who he named “O.N. Again,” was built with mostly combat training in mind. The SPECIAL stats, in order: Strength 1, Perception 5, Endurance 9, Charisma 5, Intelligence 9, Agility 6. She wouldn’t be able to carry around much, true. But she would have lots of HP thanks to her high endurance, and her high intelligence would also mean getting a lot of skill points every time Jon leveled up.
The character’s smaller tagged skills, meanwhile, were Big Guns, Lockpick, and Small Guns. O.N. Again would be able to shoot or break her way into anything. If, of course, she survived.
Jon’s YOLO run of Fallout 3 is fascinating from the very start. The man knows his shit. He notes, for example, that the operating room where the player is born is clearly not inside the vault itself, a detail that is pretty easy to miss in the middle of character creation. It’s not just Jon’s knowledge of Fallout that makes watching his runs so much fun. Because of the nature of his ruleset, Jon is forced to rely on his deep knowledge of the game in order to make a variety of unusual choices.
During the intro, for example, Jon tolerates Butch’s bullying and gives him the sweet roll Butch rudely asks for—Jon won’t risk getting punched by Butch. The associated damage would be minuscule, yes, but Jon would have to live with that loss for the rest of the game. And in a YOLO run, every single point of health counts and adds up. Even when this isn’t true—say, when Fallout 3heals the player after a major event—Jon makes sure to keep a “true” health counter that tallies up all the damage he’s accrued along the way. The idea is to keep things honest, and to keep the stakes high throughout the run.
Jon has some tricks up his sleeve to mitigate danger. He knows, for example, that being in VATs means that a lot of the damage the player would take normally is negated (and how VATs actually wears down the endurance of weapons faster). He knows the ins-and-outs of damage resistance well enough to know when a jumpsuit is no different than wearing security armor, or when Power Armor isn’t actually as good as the supposedly-weaker combat armor. Watching him do these mental calculations for every piece of gear he picks up, and every perk he acquires is eye opening, even for Fallout veterans who might think they know the game inside and out.
Even Jon’s smaller interactions with Fallout 3 prove interesting. Because of his poor strength stat, Jon has to constantly take into consideration the weight of what he takes with him. Everything is measured in caps per pound ratio. Sometimes, picking up ‘useless’ junk is actually better than stocking up on any of the loads of armor or weapons Fallout 3 throws at the player.
Even with all this knowledge at his disposal, Jon wasn’t entirely sure he could pull it off. “Oh my goodness,” Jon says at the end of the first episode. “It’s going to be impossible.”
Here, Jon continues to make unusual choices. After escaping from the vault, he notes that his actions within netted him good karma. In a YOLO run, karma is bad news. If the game considers you “good,” it throws murderous mercenaries after you. If you’re evil, the game sends bounty hunters after you. That’s all potential damage, which Jon doesn’t want. So Jon decides to rob Megaton—which, OK, plenty of people have done in the past. Hilariously, though, Jon is forced to steal even valueless items, just to offset his karma. This karma dance continues throughout the rest of the Let’s Play, as Jon has to make a bunch of silly choices just to stay at neutral.
From there, the name of the game is damage. While most players run around through Fallout 3’s early game with 10mm pistols, Jon knows how to immediately get a sniper rifle at the start of the game. In addition to that, he makes sure to pick up the Rock-It launcher, a weapon that allows him to make ammo out of errant junk. That’s valuable early in the game, when ammo is a bit more scarce.
Neither of these things really prepared him for the surprises Fallout 3 threw at him from the get-go. While making his way to the Super Duper Mart, one of the earliest quest locales in the game, Fallout 3 threw a Deathclaw event at him. Deathclaws are some of the toughest enemies in the game. He manages to kill it, luckily enough, only to have the game throw another Deathclaw at him almost immediately afterward. It’s ridiculous—and a part of what makes watching the YOLO run so thrilling in the first place. You never know what to expect. Maybe a lowly enemy will pick away at our valiant YouTube hero. Or maybe he’ll accidentally stumble on some mothereffin’ Deathclaws. Every fight is a nail-biting experience.
“I’ve literally never had luck this bad,” Jon says in the video. “This is madness.”
As luck would have it, Jon does manage to kill both of these Deathclaws despite being really low level at that point in the game. It helped that Fallout 3 also decided to spawn some Brotherhood of Steel soldiers nearby, and they helped take the demons down. Though there’s a casualty among their ranks, their intervention proves to be a boon for Jon: the Brotherhood corpse is carrying a Flamer, a powerful weapon which most players don’t get this early in the game. The whirlwind of risk brought with it an unexpected amount of reward—all without having Jon take a hit of damage, amazingly enough.
The first injury doesn’t come until Jon goes inside the Super Duper Mart, where a random raider manages to pelt him for 20 damage, making his health 300/320. In his New Vegas YOLO playthrough, Jon didn’t accrue any damage until the third episode. In the Fallout 3 YOLO run, he’s counting health points at episode two. He really wasn’t kidding about Fallout 3 being the bigger challenge.
After disarming the Megaton bomb in the most ridiculous way possible, Jon makes his way to Rivet City. Here, he does a few quests, stocks up on ammo and weapons, and kills a guard at the front of the ship for his armor. It’s all preparation, really, for what’s going to come later in the game. The plan, as he explains it, is build his character in such a way that most threats in the game are eliminated, or at the very least less of an issue.
Early on, Jon takes a perk that allows him to do 50% more damage toward Radroaches, ants, Bloatflies, and Radscorpions. Later, Jon lets the ghouls inside of Tenpenny Tower, because a character named Roy Phillips can give the player something called a ghoul mask. It’s a special item that makes every ghoul friendly to the player. That’s pretty huge, when you consider how much of Fallout 3 is ghoul-infested subways. Having his character look like an undead nightmare is a small price for Jon to pay for safety. Watching ghouls just hang out instead of rushing the player down is pretty damn cool, too. With the ghoul mask, it’s almost like they become another friendly faction in the game.