“In the early days, thousands were spared the horrors of the holocaust by taking refuge in enormous underground shelters, known as vaults.
But when they emerged, they had only the hells of the wastes to greet them- all except those in Vault 101. For on that fateful day, when fire rained from the sky, the giant steel door of Vault 101 slid closed and never reopened.
It was here you were born. It is here you will die.
Because, in Vault 101: no one ever enters, and no one ever leaves.”
Don’t worry. You won’t actually live and die in Vault 101 when you play Fallout 3. It just makes for a great Ron Perlman soundbite. Continue reading our Vault 101 Guide to find out more.
Vault 101 is situated slightly northwest on the World Map in the Washington D.C. area. It effectively functions as the center of the World Map, conveniently placed so players can venture in any direction after leaving the vault.
Vault 101 is very close to the post-apocalyptic settlement of Megaton and the ruined pre-War town of Springvale.
The Purpose of Vault 101
Vault-Tec was not a benevolent company simply wanting to save the people of America from nuclear annihilation by sheltering them in vaults. In actuality, the vaults serve as testing grounds for mostly twisted experiments.
The experiment of Vault 101 was to study the effects of the vault and residents if it remained closed permanently. This experiment failed, as a past-generation Overseer decided to open the vault and interact with the outside world.
In Trouble on the Homefront, you can resolve the chaos peacefully by informing the Overseer of the vault’s fate if it remains isolated; extinction. There were hints throughout the beginning of the game, but Vault 101 lacks enough genetic variety to continue for more than another generation unless they resorted to inbreeding.
Opening the Vault and Resealing It
The previous Overseer of Vault 101 decided to ignore Vault Tec’s directive and opened up the vault and interacted with the outside world.
Anne Palmer, the mother of Jonas Palmer, was the leader of a scouting party sent into the Capital Wasteland. She relayed her findings to the previous Overseer, some of which you can view during Escape!
The scouting team encountered and killed giant ants and established contact with the settlement Megaton. Two of the scouts, Lewis and Agnes Taylor, served as ambassadors between Vault 101 and Megaton. Agnes would later return to the Vault (And be killed by radroaches during Escape!), while the fate of Lewis is unknown.
Anne Palmer and the previous Overseer ventured into the wastes and never returned. Presumed dead, Alphonse Almodovar assumed the role of Overseer and reinstituted Vault 101’s isolationist policy.
The adults of the vault all agreed to uphold the lie that Vault 101 never opened, so the Lone Wanderer’s generation would never get the idea to leave.
You’re 1-years old, learning how to walk, and discovering how S.P.E.C.I.A.L you are! Baby Steps will get you acclimated to basic movement controls and introduce you to the S.P.E.C.I.A.L attribute system.
Growing Up Fast
It’s your tenth birthday party! Speak with your party guests and get some birthday gifts. Cap off the party by receiving a BB gun from your father and learning about the V.A.T.S. system.
You’re 16-years old now, and you have to take the G.O.A.T. or Generalized Occupational Aptitude Test. Your test results will determine your job in the vault for the rest of your life, so pay attention!
From a gameplay perspective, the G.O.A.T. determines your three tag skills. You don’t have to stick with your predetermined tag skills, however. You can change them to whatever you prefer.
You’re 19-years old. You wake up to your best friend telling you that your father has escaped the vault, and the guards are after you now. You have no choice but to leave the vault and look for your dad. The choices you make in this quest will change how some things play out when you return to Vault 101 in Trouble on the Homefront.
Trouble on the Homefront
Trouble on the Homefront only begins after completing the main quest, The Waters of Life. Chaos has broken out at Vault 101, and Amata sends you a distress message asking you to come home and help them. The vault has split into two groups; rebels and pro-Overseer residents.
The rebels want to open the vault and engage with the outside world. Those who side with the Overseer want to keep the vault closed.
You can resolve the quest by siding with either faction or choosing to sabotage the vault and dooming them all.
Trouble on the Homefront is a timed quest. You can start the quest by traveling in proximity to Vault 101 to trigger Amata’s message. If you don’t return to Vault 101 and begin the quest within 14 in-game days, you will not be able to do the quest.
If you enter Vault 101, speak with the residents there or loot items and then leave before resolving the quest, you will not be able to finish the quest.
- Grognak the Barbarian
- Medicine Bobblehead
- Tunnel Snakes Jacket
- Rock-It Launcher Schematics (Only obtainable during Trouble on the Homefront)
- Home Sweet Home holotape (Only obtainable during Trouble on the Homefront)
- Modified Utility Jumpsuit (Only obtainable during Trouble on the Homefront)
- Butch’s Toothpick (Obtainable by pickpocketing Butch during Trouble on the Homefront or trading with him if he is your companion)
- Stealth Boy (Only obtainable during Trouble on the Homefront)
Voiced by the legendary Liam Neeson, James is the father of the Lone Wanderer, widower of Catherine (The Lone Wanderer’s mother), and arguably the initial main protagonist of Fallout 3.
James serves as Vault 101’s doctor for most of the Lone Wanderer’s life, but after the quest, Escape!, it is clear that he is more than what he initially appears to be.
In truth, James was/is the leader of a scientific project known as Project Purity. The intention of Project Purity was/is to purify all the water in the Tidal Basin so the people of the Capital Wasteland would have access to clean drinking water.
After the birth of the Lone Wanderer and the death of his wife, James abandoned Project Purity to live a safe life with his child in Vault 101.
Sometime 19 years later, James leaves Vault 101 to finish Project Purity. The Lone Wanderer escapes Vault 101 soon after, and the initial primary objective of the main quest is to find your father.
Amata is the daughter of Vault 101’s Overseer and the Lone Wanderer’s best friend. She and the Lone Wanderer bond over their shared experience of not having a mother. She’s headstrong, righteous, and wants what’s best for the people of Vault 101. She is one of only three NPCs to possess Very Good Karma.
Amata loves her father, but her relationship with him becomes strained over the years. She strongly disagrees with his heavy-handed methods of managing the vault. Her disagreements with her father come to a head in Escape!, when she actively helps the Lone Wanderer escape the vault.
In Trouble on the Homefront, Amata leads the rebels against her father.
The Overseer (Alphonse Almodovar)
A wholly unpleasant and paranoid man, Alphonse is The Overseer of Vault 101. Life in 101 was different when he was growing up, as the vault was open, and vault residents could go out and explore the Capital Wasteland. Alphonse’s parents heavily disagreed with this, and Alphonse came to hold the same beliefs.
Vault 101’s previous Overseer vanished out in the Wasteland, and Alphonse took this chance to come into power as the new Overseer and implement an isolationist position for Vault 101. The Overseer is humorless and treats no one in Vault 101 kindly, save for his daughter on some occasions.
He overworks the people of the vault and cares not at all when the excessive workload makes them physically ill. He maintains a firm grip of control over the vault.
During Escape!, The Overseer becomes truly villainous after James leaves the vault. He orders vault security to murder Jonas, the assistant of James, and the Lone Wanderer. He even goes as far as telling his guards to torture his daughter to discover the Lone Wanderer’s whereabouts.
Upon returning to Vault 101 for Trouble on the Homefront, it becomes evident that The Overseer has become even more tyrannical.
Though not mentioned, it is clear that the death of his wife impacted Alphonse severely. The grief he felt might play a role in his overbearing and overprotective nature of the vault.
Reading terminal entries suggests Alphonse wishes he could be more a father to Amata than The Overseer. However, he is consumed by his perceived duty to the vault and only pushes Amata away with his actions.
Painfully overcompensating for something, Butch is the leader of the Tunnel Snakes and childhood bully of the Lone Wanderer. Butch is little more than a punk during your time in Vault 101, unable to come to terms with having no father and an alcoholic mother. He spends most of his time hanging out with Wally Mack and Paul Hannon.
During Escape!, Butch will ask the Lone Wanderer to save his mother, Ellen DeLoria, from radroaches. He cannot do it himself as he reveals he is afraid of radroaches.
The Lone Wanderer can either save his mother or convince Butch to get the courage to do it himself. If Ellen survives, he rewards the Lone Wanderer with his Tunnel Snakes jacket. It’s a decent item for an early-game melee build.
After returning to the vault for Trouble on the Homefront, Butch is one of Amata’s rebels. Like the other rebels, he wants Vault 101 open. But unlike the rest of the rebels, he wants to leave the vault for good.
When spoken to, Butch will tell you about the problems plaguing the vault and implies that the Lone Wanderer should sabotage the air filtration systems (As this would force everyone to leave).
If you resolve Trouble on the Homefront favoring the rebels, you can find Butch hanging out at The Muddy Rudder in Rivet City. If you have Neutral Karma, you can recruit him as a companion. Butch possesses a unique switchblade called Butch’s Toothpick, which is about twice as strong as standard switchblades (Though long since irrelevant as a weapon by this point).
His G.O.A.T. results determined Butch to be a hairdresser. Butch instead refers to himself as a barber and can give the Lone Wanderer haircuts at any time while he is your companion.
Son of Anna Palmer and grandson of Old Lady Palmer, Jonas is the assistant of James and a friend of the Lone Wanderer. He and James gift the Lone Wanderer a BB gun for your tenth birthday.
Initially, Jonas was just a medical technician. He eventually discovers James’ secret experiments related to Project Purity and begins actively helping James.
In Escape!, Amata reveals that Jonas is dead after being murdered by vault security on orders from the Overseer. You soon find out that Jonas intended to leave the vault with James, and the Overseer had him killed to prevent it from happening.
Officer Wilkins is a notable resident of Vault 101 because it’s possible for him to singlehandedly break the quest Trouble on the Homefront. NPCs in Fallout 3 each have faction loyalty, and if they see a faction member enter combat, they too will become hostile.
Officer Wilkins will say one line of dialogue to the Lone Wanderer before becoming hostile. Both of his children are found dead during Trouble on the Homefront, and it’s safe to say he blames you. If other NPCs are nearby, they too will attack you. Worst case scenario, the entire vault will turn hostile towards you.
He is usually found alone in the area where you shot your BB Gun during the quest Growing Up Fast. To prevent him from ruining Trouble on the Homefront, go down there and kill him immediately. Be careful because Stanley, the mechanic, is usually around in the reactor area.
Who Escaped Vault 101 Several Years Back?
If you speak to Colin Moriarty in Megaton and tell him who you thought you were born in Vault 101, he will tell you that a fella escaped Vault 101 a five years back.
But who? And if it were five years ago, wouldn’t the kids of Vault 101 have known about it and realize the Vault doesn’t actually stay closed?
Who Gave Moira Brown the Armored Vault Suit?
When you meet Moira Brown in Megaton, she will give you the Armored Vault Suit when she asks you to help her with the Wasteland Survival Guide.
If you ask her about the suit, she will tell you that a girl from the vault gave it to Moira so she could improve it. Moira says this happened 10 or 12 years ago.
Who gave her the suit? And if it was 10 or 12 years ago, how does the Lone Wanderer’s generation not know about it? Did you girl leave Vault 101 well before giving the suit to Moira and had been living in the Wasteland for years?
Question: Can You Return to Vault 101 After Completing Trouble on the Homefront?
Answer: Yes, but only if you sabotage the vault because it has been abandoned and the door left open. The only things in Vault 101 will be radraoches, however.
If you complete Trouble on the Homefront in favor of the rebels or The Overseer, you will never be able to enter Vault 101 again.
Question: Do We Ever Find Out What Happened to Anne Palmer or the Previous Overseer?
Answer: No. Unfortunately, the game never goes into details as to when or how either of them died in the Capital Wasteland.
Question: Does Vault 101 Get Mentioned in Any Other Fallout Game?
Answer: In Fallout 76, it is revealed that Vault 76’s Overseer was supposed to become the Overseer of Vault 101. She wanted to stay in West Virginia and turned the role down.
Your time spent in Vault 101 will be relatively short (Including Trouble on the Homefront), but it is a prominent location in Fallout 3. It scratches the surface of the motivations behind Vault-Tec, revealing they are more and worse than they initially appeared to be. It has some interesting backstories, though I wish Bethesda expanded upon them more and plugged up some of the holes.
Emerging from Vault 101 for the very first time is considered by many (Myself included) to be one of the most memorable scenes in modern gaming. I don’t want to spoil it for you. Instead, I hope you boot up Fallout 3 and experience Vault 101 and the Capital Wasteland for yourself.