In this guide, I’ll attempt to not spoil anything outside of the first hour of the game. There is some interesting elements to settlements, lots of factions control them and are part of quests, and other things, but for the purpose of this guide we’ll be going over purely how to build and manage a settlements.
If you want the easiest most spoiler-free figure it out yourself method to get into Settlements, then complete the minuteman quest at the Museum (you can skip this and go straight to Diamond City if you realistically want to, but…), which at the conclusion, they’ll return to Sanctuary and begin the settlement tutorial, in which you’ll get Sanctuary up and running and off the ground. There are a lot of settlements in the game, managing them all together can become a full time job.
Successful settlements need four critical things: beds, food, water, and defense. In the same respect, power is required to meet these needs beyond the most basic sense, especially for defense. There is an easy and quick way to understand how much of each you need:
- Beds: One per settler (max of 10 settlers plus 1 settler per Charisma point).
- Food: One food per settler.
- Water: One water per settler.
- Defense: One point per settler, although more is more helpful.
- Power: Add all of the power consumption things you need running, that’s the required power.
As noted, you’ll probably have a max of 11 to 20 settlers, depending on your build. You probably don’t need more than 10 for most settlements, and can manage the number of settlers via how many beds you have. A radio tower will help settlers show up, along with a high happiness score.
Sanctuary is Kinda Special
Sanctuary is the first of two settlements you get out of the gate (the second being the unestablished Red Rocket gas station). It’s also huge, with an abundant supply of resources in the form of trees, ruined houses, and homes loaded with stuff to scrap. It’s huge and probably going to be where you’ll most likely have your base of operations.
The Many Ways to Gain Settlements
Settlements are opened up in one of three ways:
- Accessing the workbench, which automatically gives you the settlement (Red Rocket is an example of this).
- Slaying all hostile enemies in the settlement area, then accessing the workbench.
- Through a quest.
Sometimes, there is a quest available for a settlement, but you can also just take out everyone there if you’re not that keen on that faction.
For a settlement like Sanctuary that’s basically in ruins, you can scrap almost anything, without question too. For pre-established settlements, you can still scrap whatever you wish, but it’s probably best to leave it alone unless you really enjoy the location.
You can scrap from the workshop menu.
To build, press and hold the workshop key (V on PC) at which point you’ll get an easy to navigate menu that contains all of the various buildings, along with whatever requirements (perks, power, people). Everything is pretty simple, but there are a few tricks to note.
You can build vertically and horizontally. On smaller settlements, it might be better to build higher than outward. Likewise, you can build some really cool sniper nests for yourself to make defending easier (and give you some cool views). The only limit is the items you have available and your creative means of placing them.
Settlers don’t care about the cosmetic stuff. You can throw beds almost anywhere and they’re going to be happy. Likewise, nothing has to be pretty. You can build it as you want it. Walls and structures really only serve a defensive purpose, because remember your settlement will come under attack and in doing so, if you choose to defend it, you’ll want to keep a lot of the elements guarded – like power generators. Walls also provide cover.
In that sense, you can really plan defensively, with walls just in random spots for you to take cover in and you can use unmanned guard houses as a means of defense yourself. Likewise, you might also consider condensing everything into one center point, making it easier to defend than trying to manage defending a larger settlement – but, the consequence of this is that you might not have easy access to water.
In order to get power to work in a settlement, you’ll need 3 things – a generator, some power line, and something that needs power (turrets, lights, and water pumps are some of the things that need power). You can build pylons to run power lines further distances. In order for it to all work, first build a generator. Then connect a power line from the generator to whatever you wish to power by highlighting the generator and choosing the “Power Line” option.
Generators will be a big target in an attack, so be sure to defend them. You only need line of sight from the generator to a pylon, so it’s actually rather easy to wall them in to keep them defended. Be sure to put a roof over them to keep any grenades from being lobbed at them.
Of note, you can use on/off switches to do neat things like arming traps at the last minute.
Terminals can impact some items, which are noted in the game.
Water is the easiest part – you can build small pumps, which don’t require power, and just place them anywhere (although defend ‘em, they’ll be a target in an attack). Water pumps require power and water, but produce more than enough water than you’d need.
Food requires a farmer. Farmers will farm food for you automatically, you just have to place the food on the ground.
Defense requires defensive items placed down. The score only provides a defense against attacks and population happiness, on the flip side though, you can put turrets in a really useless spot and they won’t really help you at all.
Guard houses are the best early defense system, but they require one settler to man. Later on, once you have a power grid up, placing turrets are key sections (where they have lots of line of sight) and utilize traps (like trip wires) is smart.
Being a Leader – Supply Lines
You can establish supply lines by assigning a provisioner, once you have more than one settlement active and the Local Leader perk. Settlements that overproduce food or water can transfer the resources amongst themselves in order to keep everyone happy.
Building and scrapping are the easy parts. The more complex part is planning out your build. You’ll need enough of everything to make settlers happy, plus, in addition, you’ll need to defend it all and have the resources to build everything out. It takes a lot and it’s all completely optional, but if you’re having fun then hey, why not.
You also have to consider if you’re just building a neat town to look at, or a defensible settlement that hold its own. Each one has kind of a different means of being built, because a settlement designed to be defended is going to need lots of traps and turrets, smart wall design to provide cover for you and the settlers, and soft spots like water, food, and power defended and walled off, if possible.
Not All Settlements Are Alike
Some settlements, like Home Plate in Diamond City, don’t specifically have buildings or settlers, but you can still decorate them. Some settlements can revoke your workshop privileges as well, although you can slay everyone in them.
Expanding your Settlement Without Mods
Picket Fences magazines can add additional functionality to your settlement. They are usually located in foremens offices and anything construction related (no spoilers here). You can also mod the game to add additional parts to your settlement.
You can change the fast travel spawn point – this is useful to spawn in your most preferred spot.
Stores make your residents happy.
Build a bell early, so you don’t have to hunt everyone down in your settlement.
The god mode console command, TGM (press tilde, then type in TGM and press enter) will grant you unlimited resources. This is amazing if you want to build a really hype settlement but don’t want to engage in the farming or grinding aspect, or if you want to place a power grid down without having to farm for everything.
Place a chair somewhere that’s easy for you to get to. It can be hard to build a night, so having somewhere to sit and wait until morning is really useful.
You can scrap almost anything, including entire houses, but the big issue to watch out for is you get less than you put into it. So things like chairs and tables and other decorations are probably good to keep around, unless you really aren’t the decorating type. You can store them and use them at any settlement.
Once you can build shops, it'll help make everyone happier.
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