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This is an overview article which contains background information and cross-game comparisons. For game-specific information and stats, see the articles linked on the right.
Gameplay articles
Deathclaw spawn
Mother deathclaw
Fallout 2Albino deathclaw
Deathclaw spawn
Mother deathclaw
Tough deathclaw
Fallout 3Deathclaw
Enclave deathclaw
FO: New VegasDeathclaw
Deathclaw baby
Young deathclaw
Blind deathclaw
Deathclaw alpha male
Deathclaw mother
Legendary deathclaw
Fallout 4Deathclaw
FO TacticsHairy deathclaw
Fallout ShelterDeathclaw
Enclave deathclaw
Fallout: BoSExperimental deathclaw
Baby experimental deathclaw
Elder experimental deathclaw
Chameleon experimental deathclaw
Adolescent experimental deathclaw
Mama experimental deathclaw
Van BurenDeathclaw
JES FO RPGDeathclaw
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The Deathclaw is the most evil thing to rise out of the ashes after the war. Some say it's a powerful ghost from the war that haunts the land. It's no ghost, it's as real as you and me. It's 20 feet tall with teeth as big as your arm. It's some kind of demon that found its way here when the world was engulfed in fire.

Beth, Fallout

Deathclaws are a large, agile and strong species of mutant Jackson's Chameleon[1] created through genetic engineering, with the addition of DNA of various other species.[2] However, due to mutation, they have lost their color-changing ability.

Background[edit | edit source]

The deathclaws were originally created before the Great War by the United States Military in order to replace humans during high risk, close combat, and search-and-destroy missions.[2] Later on, when the Master was building his army, the Master had sought to improve upon their design to make them more lethal; however, before he could use his experiments to his own ends, the Master's experimental deathclaws escaped in the California wasteland to propagate through the continent.[2]

Around 2161, deathclaws were still mysterious and legendary creatures to many inhabitants of southern California.[3] They could only be found in the Boneyard at the Warehouse, with a mother living here, one in a former deathclaw's nest and around the Hub, some times attacking caravans or travelers. Later, as the deathclaw population grew and really spread across the continent, the deathclaws stopped being perceived as legendary beasts, and started to be seen just as another dangerous creature. [4]

Biology[edit | edit source]

Deathclaws have a hunchbacked, humanoid build and stand roughly nine to ten feet tall, with a thick and resilient hide, powerful muscles, and twelve-inch-long, razor-sharp claws that can kill most any other creature in only a few swipes; hence their name. They have an excellent sense of smell and hearing, though their eyesight is poor. Their build gives them incredible speed, resilience and Strength in close combat (they are able to tear a man in half in one swipe[5]), making them an extreme threat at all times. Though they were originally mutated chameleons, they have lost the ability to camouflage themselves.

Deathclaws are very aggressive, territorial, and carnivorous. Although they are rightfully feared, they appear to be scared off or at least cautious of loud noises, sudden bright lights and large group of people.[6][7] Deathclaw packs typically consist of around eight to twenty members led by a single polygynous alpha deathclaw, and his main mate, a deathclaw matron. Should the alpha or matron die, the surviving member takes another mate and continue to breed.[8] Deathclaws are oviparous, with the eggs typically laid in dark, sheltered locations and fiercely guarded by their mother. Young deathclaws reach maturity under the care of their parents, following them closely until they are old enough to fend for themselves.

Although they do not have vocal cords, they can growl and shout, and seem to be able to mimic human speech much the same as a parrot does. However, normal deathclaws aren't intelligent enough to be capable of real speech.[1]

Interestingly deathclaws do not sharpen their claws on nearby objects, instead preferring their own nails to do the sharpening. The Lone Wanderer or Courier can witness this behavior while sneaking up on a deathclaw.

Variants[edit | edit source]

Age and sex variants[edit | edit source]

Deathclaw[edit | edit source]

Deathclaw fo1.gif

The adult male specimen of the most common type of deathclaw. Feared throughout the wasteland. As mentioned above, they are highly difficult to defeat, due to high health, high movement-points and lethal melee attacks. Ironically their social nature adds to their lethal image; it's not uncommon to encounter regular deathclaw in groups of three or four.

Baby deathclaw[edit | edit source]


Baby deathclaws or deathclaw spawn are the smallest, and weakest forms of deathclaws. They will tend to stay close to and follow their mother, and protect her when she is either threatened or attacked. If the mother is killed, the baby deathclaws will surround her body and attempt to protect her. If the babies are killed the Mother will go into a frenzy and kill everything near her.

Young deathclaw[edit | edit source]


The younger variation of deathclaw is slightly larger and tougher than the baby deathclaw, but much smaller than the normal deathclaw. They can mainly be found amongst larger groups of deathclaws and will often stay close to an older deathclaw.

Mother deathclaw[edit | edit source]


Female deathclaws, also called Mothers and Matriarchs are fewer in numbers. Only one female is the pack mother at a given time, with another female taking its place when it dies. Mother deathclaws can be distinguished from males by their dark olive color, barbed tails and back curving horns. They also seem to have a bloated abdomen, presumably from eggs, and are generally larger in size than normal deathclaws.

Deathclaw alpha male[edit | edit source]

Gameplay article:

The alpha deathclaw is the strongest of all the deathclaws after the legendary deathclaw. The deathclaw alpha male is much different in appearance, being darker in color and having large horns. Two can be found in the Quarry near Quarry Junction.

Legendary deathclaw[edit | edit source]

FNV DeatclawAlpha.png
Gameplay article:

The legendary deathclaw is the biggest and most lethal variant of deathclaw. It looks slightly different than all other deathclaws, having gray skin and expanded horns and fangs. It is located in Dead Wind cavern along with many other deathclaws. It and the other deathclaws located in Dead Wind cavern are considered the guardians of Mercy, the unique grenade machinegun found near the legendary deathclaw on a dead Brotherhood of Steel paladin.

Deathclaw subspecies[edit | edit source]

Blind deathclaw[edit | edit source]

Gameplay article:

Blind deathclaws are a weaker variant found in the Mojave Wasteland, and appear in both adult and baby form. Although not able to see, they have superb hearing, which makes approaching them unnoticed very hard, if not impossible.

Intelligent deathclaw[edit | edit source]

Gameplay article:

In 2235, the Enclave captured many deathclaws and exposed them to FEV. This boosted their intelligence, giving them the ability to talk with varying degrees of erudition and articulation. This subspecies was highly intelligent, about the equivalent of an eight-year-old, with some even being on par with average adult humans. Their learning capacity was very high and they were capable of abstract thought and reasoning. Although they did not have vocal cords, the deathclaws seemed to mimic human speech in the same way a parrot does. Socially, they had rigidly hierarchical, peaceful, pack-based ethical code. They were extremely loyal to the pack as a whole, treating it as a family unit rather than having individual families. Fights within a pack are unheard of, and the pack's leader controls many aspects of life, such as choosing and matching female and male deathclaws for reproduction. Oddly enough, deathclaws are not subject to sterility from F.E.V. exposure; this trait is not explained.

Albino deathclaw[edit | edit source]

Gameplay article:

An extremely rare deathclaw, that only one of this variant has been seen in the Wastelands. The albinism is due to a different mutation with FEV,[9] his hide is completely dark gray instead of earth-tone colors like other normal deathclaw and his eyes are red. This variant also seems to have a sensitive hide because he always wears his robe and will only remove it during combat. He also has a telepathic sense connecting him with his brothers, seen when the Enclave attack Vault 13.

Hairy deathclaw[edit | edit source]

Mini-FOT Logo.pngThe following is based on Fallout Tactics and some details might contradict canon.
FOT deathclaw.jpg
Gameplay article:

A deathclaw subspecies living in the area of the former states of Illinois, Missouri and Kansas developed patches of fur to better cope with the colder climate. (However, since reptiles are cold-blooded and produce very little of their own body heat, a real-world reptile with fur would actually freeze to death.) Furthermore, some of them were noted to be capable of speech as early as in 2197, which means that they probably developed speech through spontaneous mutation, or were experimented on by someone other than the Enclave. Another possibility that they were designed to have an intellect and ability to speak before the Great War.

The hairy deathclaws are more matriarchal than their New California, Capital Wasteland and Mojave Desert counterparts, with packs being led by Matriarch. While infant, these deathclaws are less hairy and seems to be absolutely unintelligent, behaving like an animal or simply following the adults. They presumably become self-aware when they grow up.

Mini-FOT Logo.pngEnd of information based on Fallout Tactics.

Experimental deathclaw[edit | edit source]

FOBoSLogo.pngThe following is based on Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel and has not been confirmed by canon sources.

In the Secret Vault, a Vault-Tec Industries installation which served as the company's ticket to a life after the apocalypse, aside from many scientific projects that were to insure the company's power, some research with radioactive materials and FEV took place. When the Brotherhood of Steel Initiate visited the Vault, he encountered unique variants of the beast known all over the wastes.

The Vault-Tec scientists apparently obtained a sample of the deathclaw bioweapon and tried to improve it using the FEV, radiation and technology. The resulting new species became larger, stronger, gaining extra muscle mass and a type of exoskeleton with many protruding spikes. However, the mutation led them to become blind, leaving the deathclaws to rely on their other senses. The longer they live, the bigger they become, so their mutation and the FEV effect could be very similar to that of Capital Wasteland super mutants. The eggs of these deathclaws are also unique, as they appear more like a pile of flesh nearly the same size as a human. Experimental deathclaw variants include baby deathclaws, elder deathclaws, adolescent deathclaws and mother deathclaws.

Chameleon deathclaw[edit | edit source]


Chameleon deathclaw are slightly more evolved than the standard experimental deathclaws. Their adaptive hides help them blend in with their surroundings, rendering them invisible in dark passages. It's weaker than the Elder variety but is much harder to locate and faster.

FOBoSLogo.pngEnd of information based on Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel.

Other variants[edit | edit source]

Enclave deathclaw[edit | edit source]

Enclave deathclaw.png
Gameplay articles:

These deathclaws are equipped with metal headgear that allows Enclave soldiers to control who they target. If the player attacks their headgear, the deathclaw may frenzy. They will attack any non-Enclave personnel, including other deathclaws. They can, however, be temporarily controlled with the deathclaw control scrambler. They are frequently found in cages with Enclave patrols in the Capital Wasteland, and are often released if the patrol is engaged in battle. Enclave deathclaws may sometimes even respawn after their Enclave masters have been killed.

Behind the scenes[edit | edit source]

Was it always a big scaly lizard thing? Nope. My initial design for this terrible creature was a the apex predator of the wasteland, a mix of wolverine and brown bear, mutated by the FEV. It could survive any environment and feared nothing; a legendary force of nature that struck terror into the hearts of men! Unfortunately, the artists took one look at my concept sketch and said, 'Dude, that's way too much hair.' It was true. The Wolverine-bear was very furry, and there was just no way around it.

So here's what happened: the newly formed Black Isle started work on what would be Planescape: Torment. One of the first art pieces was a monstrous creature called a Terrasque. It was sculpted in clay and was then point-by-painstaking-point digitized into a 3D model. As Planescape moved forward, it turned out that the Terrasque wouldn't actually be featured in its design, leaving that tasty model in disuse. Thus, the furry wolverine-bear became a hairless reptilian biped. (Take a look at page 339 of the D&D second edition Monster Manual. Holy cats! It's a Deathclaw!)

  • Source for the above quote: Scott Campbell, Origins of Fallout
  • The deathclaws are a reference to the Shadowclaws in Wasteland.
  • In Scott Campbell's original concept art, deathclaws were mammals covered with fur and were meant to be a mix of wolverine and brown bear, created by FEV.[10] The reason it lost the hair from concept to production was a technical limitation of the rendering software, which couldn't get all the hair to move properly. The hairy deathclaw in Fallout Tactics was inspired by the original concept.[10][11]
  • According to the Fallout Bible[12] and Scott Campbell,[10] deathclaws were modelled visually on the Tarrasque of Dungeons & Dragons after a D&D computer game made by Interplay was cancelled (according to Fallout Bible) or after the creature was cut from Planescape: Torment (according to Scott Campbell), as a Tarrasque clay model was already made and this way the work would not go to waste. However, according to Chris Taylor, while they do look Tarrasque-like, it was not intentional and the clay model was supposed to be a deathclaw from the start.[11]

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Fallout and Fallout 2[edit | edit source]

Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas[edit | edit source]

Fallout Tactics[edit | edit source]

Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel[edit | edit source]

Van Buren[edit | edit source]

Fallout d20[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 The Chosen One: "{131}{}{What can you tell me about the deathclaws?}"
    Joseph: "{146}{}{Well, let's see... Deathclaws appear to be mutated Jackson's Chameleons, the horned variety. There are a lot of similarities still present, but an even greater number of differences. The mutation factor is quite high. This species is highly intelligent, about the equivalent of an eight-year-old, with some individuals reaching human normal level. Their learning capacity is very high and they are capable of abstract thought and reasoning.}"
    "{160}{}{Although they do not have vocal chords, the deathclaws seem to mimic human speech much the same as a parrot does. I have yet to discover the exact mechanism behind this, so I am unable to say more at this time. Socially, they are pack animals with a very rigid code of ethics. They are led by an 'alpha male' who rules with the mutual consent of the pack. They appear to be extremely loyal to the pack as a whole, treating it as a family unit rather than having individual families as humans do.}"
    "{161}{}{Their sense of right and wrong is very well defined. They do follow a code of ethics that is enforced by the pack as a whole. Violence is never used as a solution to a problem among the pack as far as I can see. There have been no 'capital crimes' committed here, so I can't say how those are handled. Hmmm. That's about all I can think of for now. I hope this helps you.}"
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Fallout 2 Official Strategies & Secrets p.27: "Deathclaws were originally created to replace humans during close-combat search-and-destroy missions. They were derived from mixed animal stock and then refined by the Master, using genetic manipulation. The resulting creature is almost unbelievably fast and powerful. Deathclaws are well named—they are the toughest animals that you will encounter in the Wastes."
    "Unless you have Combat Armor, extremely heavy weaponry, and a lot of StimpacksQuoted verbatim, error appeared in the original sourceIcon sic.png, running for the exit hexes at the first sign of a Deathclaw is your best chance of survival. If you're well equipped and want to stick it out, though, get in at least one shot at long range, because Deathclaws move so fast that you're unlikely to get another long-range attack as they charge you. They'll always close rapidly so they can use their powerful claws to tear and rend you. For maximum damage, use a Called Shot to the eyes when you shoot them. However, even with Called Shots, you'll need several good hits to put a Deathclaw down—use extreme caution (and save often) when fighting them."
    Deathclaws being genetically engineered before the Great War and later refined by the Master is mentioned in the Fallout 2 Official Strategies & Secrets strategy guide, written by Fallout 2 lead designer, Matt Norton, as well as in Fallout Tactics. It is unknown why the Master would genetically manipulate the deathclaws and then not use them at all for his purposes.
  3. The Vault Dweller: "{347}{}{Do you know anything about the Deathclaw?}"
    John Maxson: "{262}{Gen_78}{Oh. Just another stupid rumor. Some people say it's a huge fanged monster and others say it's a vampire.}"
  4. The Vault Dweller: "{225}{}{I need info on the Deathclaw, and I hear you're the man.}"
    Harold: "{230}{HROLD45}{Oooh, that thing. Friend, that is nightmare city. Why the hell you asking about that?}"
    Harold: "{232}{}{If it catches up with me, I want to know what to do.}"
    The Vault Dweller: "{233}{HROLD47}{Okay. Well, it's like a damn big man, is what it is. Got spikes and claws that can cut through the heaviest armor. But don't let the size fool ya, it's quick.}"
    Harold: "{234}{}{Any weaknesses?}"
    The Vault Dweller: "{235}{HROLD49}{Well, from what I've heard, maybe whack it in the head? I'd try the eyes. 'Course, there's a problem there.}"
    The Vault Dweller: "{236}{}{What kind of problem?}"
    Harold: "{237}{HROLD50}{You can't look at 'em! It is said the Death Claw can hypnotize just by lookin'. Then it walks up and "boom", you're et!}"
  5. The Vault Dweller: "{141}{}{Where can I find the Gun Runners located?}"
    Razor: "{158}{}{The Gun Runners are over to the east and then north of here. But be careful - Death Claws are not to be taken lightly. I've seen a Death Claw tear a man in half with one swipe.}"
  6. The Courier: "Have you had problems with Deathclaws before?"
    Chomps Lewis: "We'd see them occasionally, but they didn't seem too keen on getting too close to the quarry. Not sure if it was the noise or all the workers. I can't believe that an entire pack moved into the quarry. I thought that kind of bad luck only happened in New Vegas."
    (Chomps Lewis' dialogue)
  7. NCR Radio distress beacon and Flash Bang Information
  8. The Courier: "I killed the Mother Deathclaw."
    Chomps Lewis: "You... you did? That's pretty amazing - I figured you'd need artillery to take her out. I hate to say it, but as long as the Alpha Male is still alive, that pack isn't going anywhere, even with the Deathclaw Mother out of the picture."
    The Courier: "I killed the Deathclaw Alpha Male."
    Chomps Lewis: "You... you did? That's pretty amazing - I figured you'd need artillery to take him out. I hate to say it, but as long as the Deathclaw Mother is still alive, that pack isn't going anywhere. She'll take another mate and keep laying eggs."
    (Chomps Lewis' dialogue)
  9. Fallout Bible
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 "The Origins of Fallout", part 3 by Scott Campbell
  11. 11.0 11.1 Chris Taylor at No Mutants Allowed forum
  12. Fallout Bible 8