We’ve been discovering all week that there’s a surprising amount of depth to Bethesda’s seemingly simple vault-building sim: from battling radiation poisoning to the nuances of making both babies and bank, there’s a lot to keep track of. One of the most important features to become familiar with quickly are the SPECIAL stats that define your dwellers’ interests and capabilities.
What are SPECIALs?
S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stands for Strength, Perception, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck. This is a recurring stat system found in the main canon Fallout games, and it’s being repurposed in Fallout Shelter as a way to organize your dwellers’ assignments and improve production. Every dweller has a certain level in each of the seven SPECIAL stats, ranging from 1 to 10 (lowest to highest).
You can view a dweller’s SPECIALs by tapping on them individually to bring up their profile box, or by opening the dweller list by tapping on the vault gear icon in the upper left corner of the screen (which has the number of dwellers currently assigned to your vault on it).
From both of these, you’ll get a quick overview of a dweller’s SPECIAL levels via a bar graph. The graph shows the attributes’ initials (S – Strength, P – Perception, etc.) and the dweller’s current ranking in each. The part of the graph filled in with green is the dweller’s natural, permanent ability in that SPECIAL. Any part of the graph in blue is a temporary bonus afforded by equipment (more on that below).
To see the specific numbers for a dwellers’ SPECIALs, just tap on the graph to bring up a detailed box. You’ll be able to see the permanent, base number in green, along with any temporary bonuses listed as + a blue number. For example, in our image above, the dweller has a base Strength of 5 plus 2 as a bonus (from his outfit) for a total of 7 Strength. This same outfit also gives a +1 to Endurance, so he has base 1 + bonus 1 for a total of 2 Endurance.
Within the dweller list, you can sort by SPECIALs by tapping on the top of the SPECIALs column. This will change the word to each of the SPECIALs in order, allowing you to sort by highest Strength, then highest Perception, and so on with each tap.
Okay, but what do SPECIALs actually do?
SPECIAL stats affect almost everything a vault dweller does in Fallout Shelter. Every room you build is suited towards one of the seven SPECIAL attributes. To see what SPECIAL a room is tied to, just tap on the room: left of its resource production amount and timer is a letter inside a circle. This letter is the room’s associated SPECIAL. So, in our image above, the Power Generator has an S, meaning its associated SPECIAL is Strength. This info also appears on the room’s upgrade menu and in the build menu, so you can check associated stats even before constructing a room. Finally, you’ll also see it pop up next to a dweller when you drag them over a room (before dropping them inside).
While this info is pretty readily available in-game, here’s a quick cheat sheet on some of the early rooms and what SPECIAL is best to assign where:
- Living Quarters: Charisma – get pregnant faster
- Power Generator: Strength – get power faster
- Diner: Agility – get food faster
- Water Treatment: Perception – get water faster
- Medbay: Intelligence – get stimpaks faster
- Science Lab: Intelligence – get radaway faster
- Radio Studio: Charisma – send out radio broadcast faster
There are plenty of other rooms to unlock beyond these, but you get the idea.
Note: we left off the Storage Room because it doesn’t technically produce anything and there’s no production benefit to who you assign here. However, if you’re out of production spots and need a place to put a high-Endurance dweller, standing in the Storage Room will keep them content since it is an Endurance-associated room.
Also note that Training Rooms, like the Weight Room and Lounge, have an associated SPECIAL but these are the SPECIAL they increase. You don’t receive a bonus for putting a high-SPECIAL dweller in this room; their letter merely tells you what stat any dweller inside is working to raise.
What about exploring the Wasteland?
Every SPECIAL stat helps in some way when a dweller is sent out to explore the Wasteland. The most obvious one is Luck: a high Luck stat will increase the amount of caps and items an explorer finds. All the other stats allow them to stay out in the Wastes longer and handle any dangers that attack while doing so.
Why should I put dwellers in rooms that match their SPECIAL?
The benefits of putting a dweller in a room that matches their strongest SPECIAL is two-fold: first, the dweller will be happier working in a room suited to their skills. If a dweller seems chronically unhappy for no apparent reason (such as a lack of resources or being irradiated), try switching them to a different type of room. They may not be using their talents to their fullest. If you receive an objective to “assign dwellers to the right room,” this is referring to matching their strongest SPECIAL to the room they’re assigned to, e.g., put a high-Strength dweller in the Power Generator or a high-Intelligence dweller in the Medbay.
The second reason for aligning dwellers’ SPECIAL stats with the room they are in is that they will make the room more productive than a lower-SPECIAL dweller. The higher the associated SPECIAL total for a room’s workers, the shorter the room’s countdown timer on resource production.
Here’s an example of how SPECIALs help production:
- We have a max-upgraded, three-room Power Generator staffed with 6 dwellers.
- With lower-Strength dwellers whose Strength total was 12, the time to produce our power resource was 6 minutes, 10 seconds.
- We replaced a number of these dwellers with higher-Strength dwellers.
- Our 6-person team after these replacements had a total of 27 Strength.
- The time it took them to produce the same number of resources in the same room dropped to 2 minutes, 44 seconds.
- Thus, the total SPECIAL and production time are directly related. We increased Strength by 125% and decreased production time by ~56%.
But what about the number of dwellers in a room? How does it compare to the SPECIAL amount? It doesn’t. Only SPECIAL really matters.
- We took two dwellers out of that same room, whose total Strength equaled 4.
- We replaced them with one dweller whose Strength was 4, resulting in 5 dwellers instead of 6, but still a total of 27 Strength.
- The production time remained at 2 minutes, 44 seconds.
- So, one very high-SPECIAL dweller can do the work of numerous low-SPECIAL dwellers.
You’ll always notice some type of increase by adding dwellers to a room that has open worker space, simply because everyone has at least one point in each SPECIAL to add to the room’s total. But in order to maximize room assignments and production, place the highest SPECIAL dwellers in the right rooms.
When adding a dweller to a maxed-out room, notice the “letter +” or “letter -” symbol that appears next to them. If it’s plus, they have a higher SPECIAL stat for that room than at least one of the dwellers currently working there, and they will replace the lowest SPECIAL worker. If it’s minus, their SPECIAL stat is lower than all of the current workers, and moving them in will reduce productivity because of this. If it’s a “0,” then they have an equivalent SPECIAL to at least one of the workers and swapping them in will result in no change.
How do I increase dwellers’ SPECIALs stats?
First, it’s important to note that leveling up—gaining EXP from production or Wasteland exploration and increasing a dweller’s numerical level—will not increase their SPECIAL attributes. The only thing that improves when leveling up is health. Health is super important for surviving incidents like fires and raider attacks, but a high-level dweller gains no advantage in room production.
For that end, you need to increase the SPECIAL stats themselves.
There are two ways of doing this: temporary and permanent. Equippable outfits that you find in lunchboxes or while exploring the Wasteland provide temporary boosts to SPECIALs. These boosts last as long as a dweller is wearing the outfit in question, and end when the outfit is unequipped. Outfits are nice, however, because they provide an immediate boost and can be freely swapped between dwellers.
The SPECIAL and level of increase varies between outfits: to see what SPECIAL stat will be increased, tap your dweller and tap the outfit icon to choose their equipment. The currently available (unequipped) outfits will be listed, each with their associated SPECIAL boosts. In the image above, the Combat Armor increases Strength by 2 and Agility by 1, the Formal Wear boosts Luck by 3, and the Wasteland Medic adds 2 to Perception and 1 to Luck.
You can also see this information by entering the storage area of the Pip-Boy menu. The SPECIAL increases of weapons and outfits are listed directly under each item.
The only permanent way to increase SPECIAL stats is via Training Rooms. These begin unlocking at later levels, once you have acquired 24 dwellers. The first Training Room to unlock is the Weight Room, which increases Strength. There are seven Training Rooms, one for each SPECIAL stat. The Training Rooms are as follows:
- Weight Room – unlocks at 24 dwellers – increases Strength
- Athletics Room – unlocks at 26 dwellers – increases Agility
- Armory – unlocks at 28 dwellers – increases Perception
- Classroom – unlocks at 30 dwellers – increases Intelligence
- Fitness Room – unlocks at 35 dwellers – increases Endurance
- Lounge – unlocks at 40 dwellers – increases Charisma
- Game Room – unlocks at 50 dwellers – increases Luck
To train a dweller in a SPECIAL, just drag them to a Training Room as usual. They will begin working out and receive an individual countdown timer listed beneath them: at the end of this timer, they will receive a training “level up” icon above their head. Tapping on them will permanently add +1 to the stat associated with the room they are in. If you leave them in the room after leveling up, they will automatically start training towards the next level.
The higher level a dwellers’ SPECIAL stat already is, the longer it will take to train to the next level. E.g., a dweller with 1 in Strength will only take about 25 minutes to reach level 2, while someone with 6 will take 6+ hours to reach 7. And you can’t train beyond the maximum level of 10 in a single stat.
The larger a Training Room (e.g., two or three of the same room merged together) the more dwellers can train at the same time. But the training timers aren’t reduced by having more dwellers working out at once (the way production timers are affected in rooms like the Power Generator), so these are a good type of room to leave at one or two-sized blocks. Only upgrading a Training Room with caps will reduce its timers.
Note that just like other non-production rooms, such as the Radio Studio or Living Quarters, dwellers don’t gain EXP while training and will only increase the SPECIAL stat, not their standard level.
Besides uncommon or rare (character) dwellers acquired from lunchboxes, most dwellers start with fairly low SPECIAL stats. Assign them to rooms that match their highest SPECIAL, equip them with outfits that boost stats, and then start upgrading SPECIALs once you unlock Training Rooms. These are the main methods of optimizing your dwellers’ skills, and making vault-life a little easier for everyone.