Fallout: New Vegas: Unarmed/Melee Character Guide

Fallout: New Vegas (PC):
Unarmed/Melee Character Guide, by Erik Fasterius
Copyright 2010 Erik Fasterius


       Just the basics of this guide, who I am, and so on...

       They're actually quite different!

   3.0 TACTICS
       General outlines on how to fight in close quarters.
          3.1 Using Your Weapons
          3.2 Armour
          3.3 Leveling and Difficult Opposition

   4.0 S.P.E.C.I.A.L.
       Two styles demand two different arrays of attributes.

   5.0 SKILLS
       This is where the builds don't differ much at all.
          4.1 Essential skills
          4.2 Useful skills

   6.0 TRAITS
       Actually very helpful, at least most of the time!

   7.0 PERKS
       So many too choose from, but which are actually worth it?
          6.1 Common Perks
          6.2 Unarmed Perks
          6.3 Melee Perks
          6.4 Perks to stay away from

   8.0 WEAPONS
       Again, a plethora to choose from!
          7.1 Fist weapons
          7.2 Melee weapons

       One for Unarmed, one for Melee - just to get you started.

       Last but not least...
         10.1 Credit Where Credit Is Due
         10.2 Version History
         10.3 Who's allowed to use this guide

Hey there, and welcome to the guide! I'm Erik, just some guy from Sweden who 
happen to enjoy making the occassional guide for GameFAQs. It's always these
"character building" guides, since that's one aspect of gaming I've always
immensily enjoyed. Tinkering with stats, experimenting with different feats and
perks, it's almost as much fun as experiencing a good storyline!

This guide is about playing an Unarmed or Melee type of character for the game
Fallout: New Vegas. I've tried to compile all I've learned playing the game, but
keep in mind that just because I've written it down it doesn't mean everything
is infallible. If you find a mistake concerning an aspect of the build, or maybe
you feel that you have a better solution, feel free to send me an email about
it! You can find my adress at the top of this page.

I've written this guide with the mindset that it is just that, a GUIDE. Not a
set-in-stone way of building your character. It's meant to highlight some of the
thinking in creating this type of character, what you can choose from to get the
most out of it, but it's also meant to help you to make your own, unique build.
Keep this in mind!

To find a section you're looking for, just press Ctrl + F, type in the text you
want to find (the name of a section, for example) and your browser will find it
for you - no need to scroll through the entire thing!

This guide is written with the hardest difficulty in mind, but it's equally
viable in the lower ones as well. Hardcore mode doesn't really increase the
difficulty as much as the tediousness (or realism, if you prefer) of the 
experience, so you can more or less have it on whatever you want. (A little more
detail on this later in the guide.)

If you liked the guide, feel it needs some changes or just want to give me some
constructive criticism, just send me an email about it! 

With all that done, let's get on with it!

If you've looked at the perks available in New Vegas (and Fallout 3 as well, for
that matter) you can easily be misled in believing that unarmed and melee go
hand in hand (pun intended!), and while that may be true to a certain extent, if
you really want the most out of your character in regards to fighting prowess
you really need to choose one or the other. Here's why:

 1) Crits:     Fist weapons work really, well with critical hits. Most have a
               decent critical multiplier (how often you crit) and quite a few
               have a very good critical damage (how much damage is added), some
               an amount equal to or even MORE than the base damage! Sneak is
               very good with unarmed for this reason.

               Melee weapons, on the other hand, are not as good with criticals.
               The critical damage is more often than not lower than on an
               equivelant fist weapon, and quite a few melee weapons can't even
               crit to begin with! ("Oh, Baby!" and the Chainsaw, to name two)

 2) VATS:      Whenever if go inside VATS and hit something, that hit will get
               a flat addition of 5% critical chance. This is good for unarmed
               for the above mentioned reasons. 

               Most melee weapons still have a special attack that you can use
               inside VATS. Some weapons even have special attack work outside
               of VATS! This all means that VATS is something unarmed should aim
               to use ALL THE TIME, while melee builds only need it in moderate
               doses. Unarmed should get VATS-centered perks, but melee could do
               without them, and focus on other perks instead.

These are the two BIG differences. These, however, lead to much smaller (but 
more numerous) differences down the road: attributes, perks, weapons, etc. What
you need to decide on is what type of character you want to play: a sneaky,
crit-happy unarmed character or an immense powerhouse with melee weapons. These
are generalizations, as there are exceptions, but they hold true for most of the
weapons in the game.

Before we go into more details about the builds themselves, let's touch on some
basic tactics for close quarters combat. While just rushing into the fray,
hacking and slashing away at everything that moves will work great a lot of the
time, some enemies require some additional thought to take down effectively.

3.1 Using Your Weapons
You're not the only one who (might) have a high Damage Threshold, quite a few of
the enemies you'll encounter in the game are also heavily armoured! This means
that you might not be able to get through their DT using your favourite knife
or fist weapon, because it does too little damage. Here's where the distinction
between damage (DAM) and damage-per-second (DPS) must be made.

Damage is how much damage your weapon does in one of its hits. DPS takes the
weapon's attack speed into account as well.

This means that a high DPS but low DAM weapon won't be able to get through your
enemies' DT. You might actually have to switch to a weapon with lower DPS! Even
if it has lower listed DPS, it'll actually do more effective DPS to targets with
high DT, since more damage gets through to it. You should always keep at least
one weapon of each kind: one generic "low-DT" weapon with as high DPS as you can
find, and one "high-DT" weapon simply to get through as much DT as you can.
Sometimes those two types are the same weapon, though, and that's just swell! 

3.2 Armour
There are two schools of thought here, on whether to use light or heavy armour.
See, even with a very high agility (which governs your movespeed) a heavy armour
will still hinder your movements quite a bit. The tradeoff is that you'll get
much higher DT yourself. If you wear light armour you'll be able to close the
distance to your targets much faster, but you'll take more damage. 

The question is whether you prefer being more tank-like, wearing heavy armour
and slowly plowing through your enemies while taking as little damage as you
possibly can or if you prefer to be quick and nimble while more vulnerable.

Since you'll be a melee artist in some fashion or the other, the question of how
you close the distance to your enemies is not a trivial one. Being slower will
increase the time it takes for your to get to your enemies initially, but ALSO
make it harder to catch up to fleeing or enemies trying to reposition themselves
somewhere else.

Both options have their advantages and disadvantages. In the end it's all up to
you and what play-style you prefer, as each options is more or less equal. You
can try out both of them, but there perks that work better with one of the
setups than the other. Try out both, see which one you like best!

3.3 Leveling and Difficult Opposition
While enemies in New Vegas scale to your level, it doesn't mean that you can go
everything in the game at level 1. Leveling means you both increase your skills
and gain more perks. Raising skills is a purely numerical increase while perks
actually give you more abilities. While some perks, such as Toughness (more on
specific perks later) just give a flat increase in some stat or attribute, other
perks give you new tricks up your sleeve (Super Slam, for example).

This means that leveling gives you more than just bigger number. And bigger 
numbers are never a bad thing, but a good complement of new abilities (or BETTER
abilities you already possess) is also something to aim for. So when you try to
run to Vault 34 at too low a level, while the enemies will be scaled to it, it
doesn't mean you'll be able to take the whole thing on! You might need to come
back later, at a higher level, where you'll have a bigger arsenal of both 
numbers and abilities. 

What I'm trying to say is that there's no need to try to tackle every single
quest and area you happen to come across on your trip through the Wasteland on
your first try if it feels too difficult for you. Just come back later! You'll
more often than not find that something you could barely survive at a low level
is somehow transformed into a cake-walk at a higher level.

4.0  S.P.E.C.I.A.L.
This is the first thing you'll get to choose when making a new character, and so
we'll start here as well. You can find example builds at the end of the guide 
with attribute arrays you can modify yourself if you're not happy with them.

Strength and Endurance
are the two common attributes for both builds, as they  help each of them in 
their own way. Strength increases both the Melee Weapons skill and the unarmed 
base damage of your character, while Endurance increases the Unarmed skill, 
overall health and the number of implants you can get. Both of these should 
therefore be high, regardless of build.

This is vital for Unarmed builds, simply because you need at least 6 to be able
to take the Better Criticals perk at level 16. A good starting value would be 5,
and eventually adding the implant for a total of 6. Melee-oriented characters 
need not bother.

Well, it's *mostly* useless in New Vegas. See, Speech (the skill) 
can be increased with just skill points just fine, even with just 1 in charisma,
Barter is only moderately useful and your companions will still be just fine 
with low charisma. This is why Charisma is the dump-stat for quite alot of 
builds out there, including these.

Intelligence has lost alot of its edge since Fallout 3, it's no longer the must-
have it used to be. While a high intelligence doesn't hurt, being slightly
dumber in New Vegas doesn't hurt you as much as you'd think, you just have to
be a bit more careful with your skill points. This is where we put all our
remaining points after we're done with the essentials. (Try to always have at
least 4 points here, so you can get the Educated perk at level 4.)

Agility increases Sneak, your running speed and your Action Points in VATS, so
it's clearly needed for Unarmed characters. An eventual total of 10 wouldn't be
misplaced. Melee characters can still enjoy the faster speed, though.

Here's the biggest difference in the two builds. Since Unarmed characters will
want as high chance of critical hits as possible, they'll want a high luck,
preferably 10 after implants. Melee characters can keep it at 1 without losing
too much. Of course, they CAN still crit, and it'll lower their chance to do so
when they can, but the points can probably be better spent at the other 
attributes for a better overall effect.

As some of the best perks for both the Unarmed and Melee character require high
skill in both areas, this section is the one least differentiated between the
two builds. Regardless, there are some differences, both in allocation and in

5.1 Essential Skills
Unarmed and Melee. To a (very small) varying degree, though. If you're a melee
character, you'll still need 90 in Unarmed for the Slayer perk, for example. 
Unarmed characters only need 80 in melee weapons, though, as the Ninja perk only
asks for that much.

Sneak is also essential for Unarmed characters. You'll need at least 80 for
Ninja, but you might even go so far as 100, if you really want to be able to 
sneak past whatever your heart desires.

5.2 Useful Skills
It's temptning to just write "the rest", but some are more useful than others. 
Lockpick and Science, for example, since they help you getting through those
pesky locked doors and hacking terminals. Speech is actually quite useful in
New Vegas, so consider taking that.

Explosives also comes to mind, especially for melee characters, as they tend to
have more perks free to spend than unarmed characters do in addition to already
having bad crits. A nice flavour skills to have, I always find it enjoyable to
watch my enemies blown intro smithereens, regardless of game!

If you're playing on Hardcore, Survival is a very good skill to have. Medicine
as well (though that can help on normal mode as well). The Repair skill never
hurts, either! 

In essence, the only skills you really should stay clear of are the other
weapon skills; Guns and Energy Weapons.

There are a few that perfectly suits our character builds, and some are useful
for both. You CAN create a character without any traits at all, but why would
you want to? While they give you some kind of weakness, that weakness is usually
more or less easily overcome, especially when you factor in their benefitial

 Built To Destroy - An excellent choice for Unarmed characters, as more crits
                    never is a bad thing! The faster decay does hurt at times,
                    and you'll have to repair more often. 

 Good Natured     - A decent pick for both builds, it mostly affects how you'll
                    play in the early game - come late game it'll be the same. 
                    You could argue that you'll "gain" skill points by taking
                    this trait, and I wouldn't disagree, but it depends on how
                    useful you think the skills are and how much you're going to
                    be using them.

 Heavy Handed     - A must-have for melee characters! Your crits suck anyway,
                    why not make your normal hits hit harder? 

 Kamikaze         - Can be useful for unarmed characters, if you know you're
                    going to be using VATS ALOT. 

 Small Frame      - I love this trait, simply because the attributes are so good
                    in New Vegas. Legs more easily crippled? Meh, I'll live.

There are quite a lot of perks in New Vegas, a bunch of which are new and some
carried over from Fallout 3, though they changed a fair few of them. They also
halved the amount of perks you get per level (one every second level instead of
a 1:1 ratio), although we do get to level 30 instead. What you'll be looking for
in perks is different for melee and unarmed; perks are probably the biggest
differentiators between the two. 

Melee builds do have more leeway with which perks they can afford to take, since
they don't need all those VATS and crit-perks that Unarmed characters need. Keep
this in mind when building your character. If you want to play around a bit,
melee is perhaps the way to go, because of this. It is, for example, very hard
to do an unarmed build that includes explosives and still retain most of it's
killing power. A melee build can do this relatively easy. You could even go for
some sniping perks, to gain some long-ranged capabilities!

(Perks are listed with their required level in (brackets) and the [requirements]
below their name. Note that Ninja and Stonewall are currently bugged and does
not work as described. Whether you want to abuse or ignore them because of this
is up to you. Hopefully they'll patch this, but you never know...)

7.1 Common Perks
These are the perks that either are good for both builds or more of a general
purpose usefulness that fits everywhere.

 Intense Training (2)  - As there aren't a whole lot of good perks at level 2,
                         IT is always a good choice. The anti-male/female perks
                         have their uses, but getting another attribute a little
                         higher is often better, in my opinion.

 Anti-male/female (2)  - Includes the Black Widow/Confirmed Bachelor/etc perks.
                         As good a pick as any at this level, you'll get 10%
                         more damage to the same/opposite sex. While it only
                         applies to humans it's still moderately useful. Plus,
                         you sometimes get some alternate conversation options!

 Educated (4)          - Two more skill points per level, at a level where you
 [INT 4]                 still haven't got all that many good perks to choose
                         from? Yes, please!

 Comprehension (4)     - It's not as good as in Fallout 3, but still very good.
 [INT 4]                 You'll get another skill point from reading skill books
                         and it doubles the bonus from magazines.

 Travel Light (4)      - If you like wearing light armours instead of big and
 [Survival 45]           bulky ones, this perk might be for you. If you're going
                         to aim for speed, why not go all the way?

 Bloody Mess (6)       - It's gory, and +5% to all damage is never wrong.

 Toughness (6)         - Gives you +3 to your Damage Threshold (DT). If you feel
 [END 5]                 you need more protection or simply haven't got another
                         good perk at a given level, Toughness is always a good

 Super Slam (8)        - A life-saver at times! It's basicly a big stun that'll
 [Melee 45, STR 6]       help you in either continuing to pummel your target 
                         into a pulp or some measure of crowd control. A very
                         nice addition to any close quarters combatants arsenal!

 Stonewall (8)         - Somewhat useful, seeing as you'll be in close quarters
 [STR 6, END 6]          with your enemies all the time. Only if you have the
                         perks to spare, though. (Note: this is currently bugged
                         and does not work as described, you actually get +5 DT
                         vs ALL as long as you use melee/unarmed weapons instead
                         of just vs. melee/unarmed!)

 Life Giver (12)       - A good way to increase your health. Very good as a perk
 [END 6]                 for levels you feel lacks any other good choice.

 Piercing Strike (12)  - A must-have for both builds! Negate 15 of your targets'
 [Unarmed 70]            Damage Threshold? Yummy...

 Unstoppable Force (12)- Somewhat useful, it's just that enemies aren't blocking
 [Melee 90, STR 7]       very often, depending on the situation. Might be worth
                         a perk, if you feel you can spare them.

 Jury Rigging (14)     - Saves a lot of trouble, repairing your weapons with the
 [Repair 90]             specific item needed. This perk will help you in just
                         picking stuff up and repairing your equipment with
                         whatever it was lying around.

 Purifier (14)         - As it works on some of the more difficult encounters in
                         the game, it's a decent choice. Dealing with Deathclaws
                         can be a bitch, especially for a close-quarters combat

 Slayer (24)           - More attack speed? 30%? That's just fine! A must-have.
 [Unarmed 90, AGI 7]

7.2 Unarmed Perks
These are perks that are good for an unarmed character, but not for a melee

 Finesse (10)          - Another 5% critchance? Yes, please!

 Math Wrath (10)       - VATS, VATS, VATS. You'll notice that alot of the perks
 [Science 70]            listed here are to do with VATS, since unarmed works so
                         well with that. None of them are must-haves, but very
                         useful, this one included.

 Silent Running (12)   - Sure, you COULD continue moving slow as a snail when
 [Sneak 50, AGI 6]       you want to sneak properly, but this feat saves you 
                         both a lot of time and frustration. I know I couldn't
                         live without it anymore!

 Action Boy (16)       - If you like VATS (and you should, being unarmed!), this
 [AGI 6]                 is an excellent perk.

 Better Criticals (16) - THE reason you have 6 Perception, you'll get another
 [PER 6, LCK 6]          50% damage on your crits, this is a must-have for
                         unarmed characters!

 Paralyzing Palm (18)  - 30 second stun? Like. Even though the description says
 [Unarmed 70]            you need to be completely unarmed it works just fine
                         with fist weapons. 

 Grim Reaper's Sprint (20) - While it's been nerfed from being an instant-win
                         perk in Fallout 3 to merely very good New Vegas, it is
                         still just that - very good. Now you have to actually
                         be a bit more tactical with your use of VATS, not just
                         aim and shoot everything that moves.

 Ninja (20)            - It's a bit weird that you don't actually have to have
 [Melee 80, Sneak 80]    unarmed skill for this, but there you have it. It's
                         a must-have for unarmed builds, as another 15% crit-
                         chance is simply too good to pass up on. (Note: this is
                         currently bugged, and only gives you a 15% increase on
                         your critchance, and not a flat +15%!)

 Nerves of Steel (26)  - Might be overkill at this point, but if you really like
 [AGI 7]                 VATS combat this might be for you. 

7.3 Melee Perks
Perks that work well with a melee build, but not unarmed. As you can see, these
are quite a lot fewer than for unarmed, and they're not even mandatory, mostly 
if you like explosives! You can play around with perks alot more with melee 
than with unarmed because of this.

 Heave, Ho! (2)        - If you like explosions.
 [Explosives 30, STR 5]

 Demolition Expert (6) - Your explosives pack more of a punch now. There are 
 [Explosives 50]         three ranks of this perk, each at 20% more damage.

 Cowboy (8)            - A good perk if you like to use knives, hatches and/or
 [Gun 45, Melee 45]      dynamite. 25% more damage is nothing to be sneezed at,
                         and even if none of the "best" weapons are in this
                         category, his perk greatly increases their viability!

 Pyromaniac (12)       - OK choice for melee, if you like to use the Shishkebab.
 [Explosives 60]         Increases the damage of all fire-based weapons.

 Splash Damage (12)    - Increases the radius of your explosions by 25%, which 
 [Explosives 70]         is very nice, if you like to use them.

7.4 Perks to stay away from
These are perks that are bad, in one way or the other. Some are more obviously
lesser perks, while some requires some deeper thought to decipher. I haven't
included ALL of the other perks, obviously, but only those that I thought you
might think are good. 

 Swift Learner (2)     - While this is level 2, there still are better perks 
 [INT 4]                 than this. Don't worry, you'll get high enough level
                         without this!

 Here And Now (10)     - You'll get enough levels, don't worry about it, and 
                         taking this perks is a perk wasted.

 Adamantium Skeleton (14) - How often do your limbs become crippled, even with
                         the Small Frame trait? Not all that often. 50% less
                         damage might sound nice, but it's really not that good.
                         There are plenty of Doctor's Bags out there, even for
                         Hardcore mode.

 Tag! (16)             - Would have been good at lower levels, now it'd just be
                         a waste of a perk.

There are a plethora of weapons out in the desert, but some are better than the
rest. I've listed some of them here, and where to find them. Remember, though,
that just because there are weapons that are "best" it doesn't necessarily mean
that other weapons are BAD, just not as good!

8.1 Fist Weapons

 Ballistic Fist        - Easily the best unarmed weapon in the game, both in
                         VATS and outside of it. You can find this weapon either
                         from Blake (he's at the Crimson Caravan Company) or
                         from Torres (Hidden Valley Bunker).

 Pushy                 - While not as excellent as the Ballistic Fist, Pushy is 
                         still very good. You can find it on a dead Jackal gang
                         member inside the Ruby Hill Mine.

 Mantis Gauntlet       - The only unarmed weapon with a x3 critical multiplier,
                         meaning that as long as you get above 33% critchange 
                         (which is not hard at all) you'll ALWAYS crit! It also
                         ignores your enemies' DT, similar to the Deathclaw
                         Gauntlet in Fallout 3. It's a rare find, but vendors
                         at either the Hoover Dam, Crimson Caravan Camp or the
                         Great Khan weapons dealers sometimes have them.

8.2 Melee Weapons

 Oh, Baby!             - This is a unique Super Sledge, and boy does it pack a
                         punch! The most powerful generic melee weapon, hands
                         down, although it requires a maxed out melee skill. It
                         can be found in the Charleston Cave (which is north of
                         Jacobstown) on a dead nightkin.

 Knock-Knock           - A unique variant of the fire axe, almost as good as the
                         Oh, Baby!, if you prefer a bladed weapon instead of
                         smashing things to a pulp. It can be found in Camp
                         Searchlight's fire station, in one of the bathroom 

 Chainsaw              - A staple weapon of generic FPSs, New Vegas sure is nice
                         to give us this weapon! No crits AT ALL, but very 
                         reliable damage. Does more damage in VATS, which is
                         odd enough, so it might not be ideal, but still very
                         nice. It can be found in Vault 3, the Legion's 
                         blacksmith or Veteran Legionaries (random).

 Shishkebab            - Ah, the burning sword. In itself it's merely good, but
                         with the Pyromaniac perk it becomes truly deadly, even
                         rivaling the Oh, Baby! as the best melee weapon in the
                         game! You CAN use poisons on it, even though it's on
                         fire, and it'll stack with the immolation damage. It 
                         can be bought from the NCR Supply Officer (Hoover Dam),
                         the Great Khan armorer or from Mick & Ralph's at


I hope you'll try to put together your own build, but if you're starved for 
ideas or just want something to start on, here are two builds:

(Attributes in [brackets] are the final values, after traits, implants and
Intense Trainings. Perks in [brackets] are "optional", you can easily replace
them with something else more to your liking. Well, everything is optional, but
it IS an example build, after all!)

         Unarmed                                      Melee
         -------                                      -----

         8 [9]                     STR                9 [10]
         5 [6]                     PER                3*
         7 [8]                     END                9 [10]
         1                         CHA                1*
         4 [5]                     INT                9 [10]
         7 [9]                     AGI                8 [10]
         8 [10]                    LCK                1*         *whichever you
                                                                  feel is most
       Small Frame                                  Heavy Handed
       Built To Destroy                             Small Frame
       [Intense Training (LCK)]     2               [Confirmed Bachelor]
       Educated                     4               Educated
       [Toughness]                  6               [Toughness]
       Super Slam                   8               Super Slam
       Finesse                     10               [Toughness II]
       Piercing Strike             12               Piercing Strike
       Silent Running              14               [Pyromaniac]
       Better Criticals            16               [Purifier]
       Paralyzing Palm             18               [Jury Rigging]
       Grim Reaper's Sprint        20               [Lifegiver]
       Ninja                       22               [Bloody Mess]
       Slayer                      24               Slayer
       [Purifier]                  26               [Stonewall]
       [Action Boy/Life Giver]     28               [Unstoppable Force]
       [Toughness II]              30               [Lady Killer]


And that's it, the end of the guide! I hope you've found it useful and that you
learned something new. If you have any questions, comments, criticism or general
feedback, feel free to send me an email. You'll find my adress at the top of 
this page.

10.1 Credit Where Credit Is Due
These are the people who have contributed to the guide in some way or the other,
except myself, of course. If you have provided some info or corrected a mistake
of mine through email, this is where your name will appear.

Sean Johnson (irish cream)

10.2 Version History

ver. 1.01, 21st of November, 2010
     - Added the "Tactics" section
     - Added more perks
     - Changed the description of some perks
     - Minor revisions

ver. 1.00, 19th of November, 2010
     - Initial release.

10.3 Who's allowed to use this guide
If you wish to put up my guide on another page, you will need my permission to 
do so first. Simple send me a mail asking if it's alright to put it up on your 
page, and I'll probably say yes - I've yet to refuse somebody. Keep in mind that
the guide need to be presented in it's entirety, un-altered and free.

The following sites are allowed to use my guide:

And that's that, have fun playing your new character!