This is a guide to some organizations and things travelers in the wastes may come across. Many of these are staples of the post-nuclear environment.
A techno-religious military order estabilished by US soldiers shortly after the Great War, the Brotherhood of Steel dedicates itself to preserving humanity's progress - not by saving individual communities, but by hoarding and preserving technology. For decades, they were the sole bastion of advanced technology in the wasteland, however, with the emergence of the NCR and the Shi, they had been steadily losing their advantage, becoming a shadow of their former selves.
There are many different ranks within the Brotherhood, and three separate castes: knights, paladins and scribes. Unlike the chivalrous knights of old, members of the Brotherhood are not interested in justice for the obviously weaker and less fortunate around them, but instead in keeping their secrecy and preserving and developing technology. Their motives are often unclear, and Brotherhood members are not people to be trifled with. It is safe to say, however, that if a group of Brotherhood knights appears to be helping some less fortunate people, their motives are not altruistic. If you encounter one in the wastes, they are most likely on some kind of mission. There are also three spin-off groups: the Mid-West Brotherhood (large and organized but spread out of a large area), The Capital Wasteland Brotherhood (altruistic and willing to take recruits, they primarly fight super-mutants), and the Capital Wasteland Outcasts (only interested in recovering old technology).
Comprised mostly of reconditioned tribals and their offspring, Caesar’s Legion is a huge slaving organization that operates east of the Grand Canyon. Led by the charismatic and cunning “Caesar” (a former Follower of the Apocalypse), the legionnaires are a well-organized fighting force and absolutely merciless in their slavery. Mimicking the ancient traditions of the Roman Empire, the legionnaires dress in segmented football pad armor and decorated football helmets.
Even more technologically advanced and secretive than the Brotherhood of Steel, The Enclave is what remains of the pre-war United States Government and Military. They are headquartered on an oil platform located off the Californian coast and use helicopter-like craft called "vertibirds" to travel to the mainland. Their motives are to reinstate the United States and rid the planet of every mutant lifeform (including the human survivors of the war). They are absolutely ruthless and will stop at nothing to achieve these ends. Though they have been known to work with survivors to get what they want, The Enclave generally holds racist views towards ghouls, super mutants, and any non-vault dwelling humans. After the 2240s, they relocate to the East Coast at Raven's Rock, due to the destruction of their Oil Rig headquarters.
The Followers of the ApocalypseEdit
The Followers of the Apocalypse are a quasi-religious group based in the ruins of the main branch of the Los Angeles Public Library in the western segment of the Boneyard. Led by Nicole, the Followers are dedicated to scholarship and to ensuring that humanity does not repeat the mistakes that led to the Great War. After the destruction of the Cathedral and the death of the Master, the Followers of the Apocalypse became a major influence first in Boneyard, and later in the newly-founded New California Republic.
The New California RepublicEdit
The Republic, or NCR as it is widely known, is a strange mix of pre-War democracy and post-War dictatorship. Begun in the town of Shady Sands, now the capital (although the city itself is often referred to as the NCR), the Republic covers most of Southern California and some settlements in far west Nevada. Cities and towns send delegates to Shady Sands, which boasts an impressive post-War capitol building, and a president is elected from among the delegates. So far, all of the presidents have come from Shady Sands, the city with the greatest number of delegates, as it is the most populous. To become a citizen of the NCR, a person must agree to follow their rules, most of which are enforced by the huge NCR police force. Mutants and ghouls are not permitted the same membership privileges as humans. Slavery is forbidden in the NCR, and members of the slave guild are thrown in jail on sight. In addition, the government controls what weapons the citizens have access to, and it is illegal to brandish weapons inside city limits. Gambling and prostitution are also illegal in the NCR. The Republic grants a city membership - and, by extension, the presence of the NCR police and protection - in exchange for tax profits and control over trade. The NCR has been known to bully cities into joining, especially when that city trades in something that the NCR needs, although such bullying is usually done with embargos, not guns.
New California RangersEdit
Technically part of the New California Republic military, the NCR Rangers are practically a force unto themselves. The Rangers are given exceptional leeway and flexibility to deal with both the intrusion of organized crime and the operation of slavers near the borders of NCR territory. NCR Rangers typically have bounties on their head, even in NCR states.
Though New Reno is the obvious example, some cities in the wasteland are controlled by crime "families." They are generally modeled on Mafia and Yakuza syndicates of the pre-war world and deal in the economies of vice (guns, gambling, alcohol, drugs, prostitution, slavery) and have been found to work in consort with many disparate organizations to achieve their ends. Hitmen act as their enforcers and diplomats and are typically beholden to a strong sense of honor. Violent rivalries between syndicates is not uncommon.
Most towns maintain their own police forces, usually headed by an elected Sheriff, to enforce their laws. Larger groups use organized police militia forces, who often are above the law in their enforcement of it. Due process and fair trials are things of the past; more often than not, justice is fast and deadly, or at least painful. Smaller town police tend to be more willing to listen to both sides of an argument, and will be more likely to throw a criminal out of town rather than jail or execute them, although they often listen to the desires of the townspeople regarding these matters. Members of larger police forces tend to be more corrupt, and can often be bribed. Be warned that bribing police officials can result in greater penalties if unsuccessful. A group known as the Regulators function as the keeper of justice in the Capital Wasteland. However, they follow the tenants of the wasteland. This means they do not arrest evil-doers, they just kill them.
Raiders are tribes of people that steal what they need from other communities. They usually do not have villages, but semi-permanent encampments, often in the ruins of small towns. Children and older members of the community will engage in some small-scale agriculture, but Raiders mostly survive on what they can steal from villages, merchant caravans, and other Raiders. Usually, they prefer to strike and fade quickly, not so much interested in killing but immobilizing and taking what they want before the guards come. Generally considered a nuisance in most areas, but larger "kingdoms" may have sent police after Raiders in their area, eliminating the threat to trade and profit. Very rarely, Raiders may organize into larger groups. However, this is usually only for the sake of trading between different Raider parties or organizing against a very serious threat to all the Raiders in an area. This is usually a temporary arrangement Raiders in the DC Wasteland are known to be far more brutal, using terror tactics modeled after people such as Ghengis Kahn and Vlad the Impaler.
Unique among survivors of the war, the Shi are descended from Chinese submarine sailors that were safely submerged when the bombs fell. They now repopulate a portion of New San Francisco in an area dubbed "Chinatown." Ruled by a supercomputer they call "The Emperor," their level of technological advancement is quite high, though they lag behind the Brotherhood of Steel in many areas.
The Slave GuildEdit
Slavery is a lucrative business in the post-War world. Although many larger pockets of civilization have outlawed slavery, smaller dictators allow the purchase and sale of other human beings. Slavery also happens to be one of the most controlled businesses in the post-nuclear world. Most slave trade in the area of California is done through the Slave Guild, a collection of older slavers who decide prices and organize capture hunts. Anyone caught capturing or selling slaves without the blessing of the slave guild is usually executed. Since the Guild holds so much power, it often controls smaller towns were it operates, although from behind the scenes. Members of the Slave Guild have a distinctive tattoo covering most of their face, making them readily identifiable to both friend and foe, allowing the guild to make fast judgments when someone without "the tat" has a tribal up on the auction block. Other Slave Guilds exist in other regions of the Wasteland, and not all mandate an identifying mark.
Where Raiders are more nomadic, some groups have settled into a simple, agricultural lifestyle, forming small villages. Some of these are little more than tents, others are large communities in ruins of towns. "Tribals" often have sophisticated - and unique - belief systems, and no two tribes are going to be alike. They have managed to find ways to make artifacts from before the War useful. Tribals are not necessarily interested in rebuilding civilization, which many view as the cause of the destruction (if, indeed, they remember pre-War civilization at all), and are wary of larger groups of people and cities. In turn, city dwellers view Tribals as primitive savages.
Before the War, a company called Vault-Tec built a series of enormous underground facilities for the US Government designed to keep people safe from disaster. They financed this project by selling places in the Vaults to people who could afford them. Although they never expected to use the Vaults, many people managed to find their way into them before the bombs hit. Vaults are three-story underground structures deep inside of mountains, where they are shielded from the effects of radiation, disease, and other catastrophes. They were designed to run for as long as necessary to keep people alive, using hydroponics technology and water-recycling. Many stayed sealed for 80 or 100 years. Vaults were equipped with sensor devices to monitor outside conditions, and had computers with vast amounts of pre-War data. In addition, they were well stocked with weapons and other important tools. Some Vaults were equipped with an item called the G.E.C.K., the Garden of Eden Creation Kit, a device that was designed to help the inhabitants build a new life once it was safe to return aboveground. Some Vaults were destroyed by earthquakes, Raiders, or other disasters, but a few of them managed to survive, technology - and people - intact. The true purpose behind the Vaults was to determine whether man could survive for long periods in enclosed places often at the expense of the unknowing Vaultdwellers; the hope was to repopulate another planet via space travel and the G.E.C.K. Vault-Tec is not the only source of long-term surival shelters, so other similiar facilities can exist.