Bethesda doled out several new details on how character progression and abilities function in Fallout 76 during a panel at Quakecon 2018. By nature of being an online multiplayer survival game, the systems we know from previous Fallout games are changing. Series staples like the SPECIAL system and Perks return, but you’ll have to get reacclimatized with them.
SPECIAL encompasses the following stats: Strength, Perception, Endurance, Intelligence, Agility, Luck. When players level up, they’re given one point to put into any of those stats. The number of points in these stats affords players to equip Perks that are specific to each of the SPECIAL stats.
Perks are relegated to cards which give players specific abilities, and each perk card has a value that requires a certain points in its relevant SPECIAL stat. Think of SPECIAL stats as a pool of resources to attach perk cards to. Perk cards are given each time a player levels up. Individual cards can also rank up so it can be boosted in effectiveness.
SPECIAL points are no longer given past level 50 and each stat is capped at 15. However, perk cards are still awarded after level 50. To mix things up a bit, perk card packs (containing random perks) are given every two level up to level 10, and every five levels afterward. This is to encourage experimentation with abilities players may not have considered otherwise.
Perk cards can be swapped out at anytime, which allows for experimentation with different character builds or adapting to certain situations. For example, the Lone Wanderer perk gives players additional experience points when playing solo, but can be swapped out for another perk when joining a group.
The Charisma stat was specifically addressed since it was mainly used to NPC interactions in previous Fallout games (note that Fallout 76 has no NPCs, and all real players). Charisma will allow players to share perks and stat boosts with their squad when grouped up, and will certainly be key for forming an effective squad.
There are hundreds of perks, too. Capping SPECIAL stats limits how powerful players get, which is especially important in an online game, but the expansive perk system leaves room for creativity in builds.
No word was given on whether or not there will be microtransactions or a monetization element when it comes to the perk card system.
Fallout 76 launches for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 on November 14, and a pre-release beta is scheduled for sometime in October.