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One of the most popular perks in Fallout 4 is Idiot Savant. Don’t let the name fool you, though. It’s one of the smartest perk choices you can make in the game, although it does restrict your build options somewhat.
The effect of the perk is simple. It adds a chance for you to get a bonus multiplier any time you receive experience points. At rank one, that multiplier is 3x, and at rank two it’s 5x. This stacks with other XP-based buffs like Well Rested.
The chance of Idiot Savant activating goes up the lower your Intelligence, hence the name. Given that Intelligence controls your rate of XP gain, you can sort of see what Bethesda was going for with this perk. However, I don’t think it was playtested.
At Intelligence 10, you gain a flat 130% bonus XP from all sources. That’s great. At Intelligence one with Idiot Savant, that number is pitiful. The rate at which you can level up with Idiot Savant is ludicrous to the point of being game-breaking, especially if you save scum with it.
I’ve put together a Fallout 4 Idiot Savant guide explaining how the perk works, as well as my personal build of choice any time I decide to use it. As a non-combat perk, Idiot Savant can be paired with any sort of combat playstyle, so don’t feel restricted by my choices. Take my recommendations on board and play around with it yourself.
Key Info Up Front
- SPECIAL stat: Luck.
- Effect: Adds a chance to receive 5x (at rank two) XP any time you receive experience points.
- Unlock requirement: Luck level five. Rank two unlocks at level 11, and rank three unlocks at level 34.
- Drawback: The chance to receive the XP multiplier decreases the higher your Intelligence stat is.
Idiot Savant has three different ranks, with each rank adding to the effects of the previous one. All of them grant a chance to trigger a bonus XP multiplier, with that chance increasing the lower the player character’s Intelligence.
The probability of Idiot Savant activating is 11% at 1 Intelligence. It decreases by 1% for each extra point you have in your Intelligence stat.
Rank 1 – Level 0
You have a random chance to receive 3x the XP you would normally get from any action. By any action, I really mean any action. Everything from building in Workshop mode to killing an enemy has a chance to proc this effect.
Rank 2 – Level 11
Rank 2 of Idiot Savant unlocks at level 11. Upgrading to rank two gives you a 5x XP bonus on every activation, rather than a 3x bonus. Given that level 11 is relatively low, it’s recommended that you pick up rank two immediately if you’re running an Idiot Savant build.
Rank 3 – Level 34
Rank 3 of Idiot Savant has a unique effect rather than increasing your XP bonus. Instead, it adds an additional roll on all of your successful Idiot Savant bonuses.
If the roll is successful, it’ll give you 3x XP for every enemy you kill for a short period of time after it activates. This affects every kill during that time period, so you don’t need to roll Idiot Savant again on each enemy.
However, while this effect is active, Idiot Savant cannot activate again. This means that certain playstyles will actually get a net loss in XP from this, but for most people, it’s worth picking up when it unlocks at level 34.
Idiot Savant Build
Strength – 3
I invest in Strength up to rank three on pretty much every single build I make regardless of playstyle. That’s no different for this Idiot Savant build.
The reason I, and you, want to always have Strength three is that it unlocks the Armorer perk. This is the perk that lets you modify your armor, something that’s mandatory for every run of Fallout 4, almost regardless of difficulty.
You can get away with not using it on Very Easy or Easy, but you should be taking advantage of it for all difficulties beyond that.
For this build, I’m going with a regular rifle playstyle. If you want to use big guns to melee, instead, you can pump a few extra points into Strength to get access to the relevant higher tier perks like Heavy Gunner.
Perception – 4
Idiot Savant build requires low levels of Intelligence. Due to that, we’re going to be missing out on Hacker. This makes Locksmith a mandatory perk, hence the investment into Perception four. This is non-negotiable for an Idiot Savant build.
Having a Perception of four is the absolute minimum for the stat, but you can invest into it a bit more heavily if you want, although I don’t recommend it. We’ve already got access to Rifleman with this level of investment, so anything else is a waste of points.
The Perception perk tree has Demolition Expert for explosive builds, as well as a few VAT-based perks. Demolition Expert is worth picking up for specific builds, but I wouldn’t recommend anything beyond that.
This Idiot Savant build is relying heavily on VATs for combat and I still don’t think they’re worth the investment. You do you, though.
Endurance – 1
Endurance is the most useless stat in all of Fallout 4. Intrinsically, its bonus HP is relatively pointless, and its perk tree is laughably bad. There is little to no case use for almost anything Endurance-related in the game, so save your perk points for a better stat.
Charisma – 2
Personally, I’ll boost my Charisma up to six when I can to get access to Local Leader. I’m a sucker for the settlement system, so if you are too, it’s worth the additional points.
However, in terms of the actual build, it’s completely unnecessary. In fact, you could leave Charisma at one if you’re willing to lose out on the 15% bonus damage to opposite gendered human enemies that you get from Black Widow/Lady Killer. Personally, a single point of investment is well worth that damage increase, but it’s far from mandatory.
Keep in mind that having low Charisma means speech checks are going to be stupidly difficult, so you’ll have to play around that limitation unless you boost your Charisma up through manually, post-SPECIAL level-ups.
Intelligence – 3
You might be wondering why I’ve decided to level Intelligence up to three rather than keeping it at one. The answer is twofold. Firstly, the Intelligence perk tree is easily the strongest in the game. Secondly, the first two perks are arguably the best perks from that tree.
I’m ignoring V.A.N.S, obviously, and talking about Medic and Gun Nut.
Medic is so good for every single build that I would argue you can never justify having lower than two Intelligence. Without the perk, your Stimpacks are going to be terrible, especially on harder difficulties and Survival.
By default, your Stimpacks and RadAway only restore 20% of your health. Each rank of Medic, up to rank four, adds an additional 20%. So, at max rank, each Stimpack will fully heal you. Compared to a 20% heal, that’s invaluable.
Gun Nut, on the other hand, can be skipped. However, I don’t recommend that for 90% of cases, especially anyone using ranged weapons.
Melee and explosive users can feel free to only run Intelligence two, but everyone else wants access to Gun Nut because Gun Nut gives you access to ranged weapon mods.
Like with so many other perks, this can be skipped on lower difficulties but is almost mandatory for any run that poses even a slight bit of a challenge.
Agility – 5
I’ve flirted with different levels of Agility for this build, but I ended up settling at five. However, if you want to go higher, that is a perfectly reasonable decision.
The Agility perk tree primarily deals with VATs. In fact, your Action Points are directly influenced by your Agility level. Given that I’m specing into critical hit based perks for this Idiot Savant build, having better VATs just makes sense.
I’ve decided to cap my Agility at five because that’s the rank that allows you to invest in Action Boy. Action Boy increases the rate at which your Action Points regenerate, up to 75% faster at rank three. You don’t need me to spell out why that’s important with a VATs build.
Luck – 9
Last but not least, I’ve set Luck to 9. If you’ve been keeping count, that means there’s one point left over for you to put wherever you see fit. The reason I’m not using that point to increase Luck to 10 is that the Luck Bobblehead will do that for us, meaning it would be a total waste of a stat point. Never starting with a SPECIAL higher than nine is a golden rule for Fallout builds.
Idiot Savant unlocks at Luck five, so technically, you could take those four extra perks and transition from a critical hits build into something like a stealth build. However, given our limited access to Intelligence perks, and our already heavy investment into the Luck tree, a crits build sort of comes naturally.
The perks we’re looking at in particular are Better Criticals, Critical Banker, and Four Leaf Clover. Between the three of them, our crits are going to do more damage, we can store a bunch of them, and every regular hit is going to have a massive chance to instantly fill our critical meter. Aside from those three, Grim Reaper’s Sprint is also a must-have.
This is the core engine of the combat side of this Idiot Savant build. You can replace the engine with some stealth or big guns perks instead, but this is the most optimized build for anyone relying on Idiot Savant for leveling.
I think I’ve done a good job justifying all of my SPECIAL investment choices in the above Idiot Savant build. However, there is always some room for flexibility. Emphasis on “some”, because there are a handful of perks that I believe are must-haves for an Idiot Savant build.
I don’t consider the critical hit-based perks must-haves purely because they power a different part of the build. Ultimately, you could replace them if you didn’t want to rely on VATs combat.
That being said, these three perks need to be picked up for every Idiot Savant build regardless of what kind of weapon or combat style you’re combining it with.
Must-Have Idiot Savant Perks
First and foremost, Locksmith is mandatory for any low Intelligence build and there’s no one alive or dead that can convince me otherwise. So much of Fallout 4 is locked behind a combination of doors and terminals, and we can’t hack those terminals.
Sure, you could choose to not get Locksmith, but you’ll be crippling your ability to get a ton of loot and, I imagine, lock yourself out of a bunch of alternative paths and methods to complete certain quests and objectives.
You get a ton of points to play around with during Fallout 4’s character creation, so there’s no reason for you not to pick up Locksmith.
Of the three perks I consider must-haves, this is the most optional. As I stated when discussing my Idiot Savant build at length, you can overlook Medic if you’re playing on the lower difficulties.
I’m talking about when you make the game so easy that combat and gunfights become an afterthought to building and story content.
For anyone else, you’re going to need this perk. healing 20% of your HP is nothing, especially on Survival mode when you die in a few hits and Stimpacks take forever to heal you over time.
Yes, investing in Medic means losing out on a 1/2% proc chance for Idiot Savant, but that’s more than worth it when you consider the effectiveness of the perk.
Obviously, Idiot Savant is a must-have perk for an Idiot Savant build. I mean, the entire point of my stat distribution choices revolve around making it as powerful as possible.
Let me explain the logic a little bit more in-depth, though. You see, Idiot Savant serves as a direct counter to the Intelligence SPECIAL stat as a whole. It’s not just an interesting perk, it’s an alternative.
Each rank you invest in Intelligence increases your overall XP gain, so limiting your Intelligence to between one and three means you’ll be leveling up incredibly slowly. This would be relatively game-breaking if it weren’t for Idiot Savant picking up the slack that low Intelligence leaves behind.
Idiot Savant rank two will actually result in faster leveling in most cases. Of course, it’s all dependent on luck, but that luck will average out over the course of a 100-hour playthrough.
Plus, if you’re a save-scumming kind of player, you can reset every time you turn in a quest until Idiot Savant activates. You don’t need me to explain why getting 5x quest XP is borderline broken.
Idiot Savant Playstyle
Given that Idiot Savant itself doesn’t dictate your combat, it doesn’t really affect much when it comes to your playstyle. It does have a bit of influence over what you can, and can’t do, though.
First and foremost, it’s going to completely lock you out of optimizing energy weapons. Rifles, melee weapons, explosives, and heavy guns are all fair game, but not being able to mod energy weapons is going to severely cripple your ability to use them on higher difficulties.
It also locks you out of hacking terminals, which does force you into investing in Locksmith. Idiot Savant is also incompatible with chem builds, for the 1% of you out there that were considering combining the two.
Idiot Savant, by design, encourages save scumming. Even if you’re against the practice, I guarantee you’re going to be tempted to do so at some point during a playthrough with this build.
At the end of the day, Fallout 4 is a single-player game, so don’t be afraid to reload if you want to get some extra XP. It’s no different from using mods or console commands.
Idiot Savant needs to be the first perk you invest in when you level up, and you need to get rank two as soon as you hit level 11. You’re massively crippling your XP gains otherwise, to the point that it will take you noticeably longer to get through the opening levels, and encounters, as a result.
Aside from that, Locksmith needs to be a perk you focus on as you develop your character. You’re not going to have access to any terminals beyond Very Easy ones, so having Locksmith rank two will open up a lot of early game options for you.
After that, you want to pick up Medic, as well as your weapon-based perk of choice. In my case, it’s Rifleman, but that might be different for your build. From here until level 11, the focus is going to be on combat optimization. In my build, that means picking up rank one of all three critical-based perks, and rank two after they become available beyond level 11.
With Idiot Savant rank two, you need to alternate between Locksmith, Medic, and your combat perks as they become available. If you’ve got a perk point with nowhere to go, save it, or invest it into Charisma so that you can pass more speech checks.
Beyond that, work your way through the early game and rescue Nick. Try to get your hands on a Combat Rifle as early as you can. Particularly, get into Vault 81 and buy the Overseer’s Guardian, if you can afford it. That gun will singlehandedly carry you through a rifle play through. Otherwise, look for a decent version of your weapon of choice.
Idiot Savant builds don’t call for too much development though. So, focus on building up your combat engine for whatever playstyle you want to run with, focusing on Locksmith and Medic when the next rank of those perks become available to you.
How Your Choice Affects Gameplay
Using Idiot Savant means no terminal hacking. This is the biggest gameplay implication that the perk has. Aside from that, and losing access to most of the Intelligence tree, you won’t see any major downsides.
The biggest gameplay change you’ll notice is how fast you level up. If you’re lucky (or abuse your saves), you’ll be overleveled for a lot of the game’s encounters very quickly. As a result, this can actually make Fallout 4 easier, as you’ll be naturally overpowering early-game enemies way sooner than you’re supposed to.
Some people like this, some people don’t, but it’s sort of the entire reason people use the perk in the first place.
Question: What does Idiot Savant do in Fallout 4?
Answer: Idiot Savant is a perk that gives you a random chance to receive an XP multiplier anytime you complete an experience-rewarding action. At rank one, the perk rewards 3x XP. At rank two, that is increased to 5x XP. These multipliers can activate on any source of experience from combat to quest completion.
Question: What are the odds of Idiot Savant?
Answer: The odds of Idiot Savant activating are 11% at Intelligence level 1, with each subsequent Intelligence level decreasing the odds by 1%, down to 1.66% at Intelligence 10.
Question: What Luck do you need for Idiot Savant?
Answer: You need to have at least five points invested in Luck to unlock Idiot Savant.
Hopefully, you’ve found this Fallout 4 Idiot Savant guide useful. It’s a unique perk that opens up an entirely alternative way to play the game, making it one of the most popular playstyles Fallout 4 has to offer.
Personally, I’m not a big fan of it because it limits your access to the Intelligence tree, but I get the appeal. Although, I wish that it had more in-game roleplay elements.
In the other Fallout games, from Fallout 1 all the way to New Vegas, having low Intelligence would result in some hilarious dialogue. Just imagine the comedy that would come about from a perk that literally marks your character as an “idiot”. It’s a shame, but at least it has a cool effect.