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Fallout 3 merchants
Most towns in the wasteland have merchants selling food and drink, with those in more prosperous settlements also offering weapons, armor, and clothing. Doctors can treat various ailments for a fee, and certain traders can repair the player's equipment.
In addition to these traders, there are also four caravan merchants traveling the DC wastes, with one dedicated to food and chems, one to weapons, a third to armor, and a forth to junk items. Other wastelanders can be found selling random, and sometimes rare, items. Special encounters with doctors, chem vendors, and hunters (food vendors) are also possible when traveling.
Merchant inventories will scale with the player's level, although certain advanced items such as power armor and plasma weapons will not normally be available. Prices are the same from store to store, but can be affected by the player's Barter skill.
Merchants will have a new inventory after a period of three days, and then again after four days, in order to correspond with the length of a week. Their inventories update at 12:00 AM, although the days these updates occur vary from player to player.
Any caps paid to merchants can be found in their inventories should they be killed.
- Merchants are not affected by any SPECIAL bonuses from equipment or items they use. However, they are affected by equipment they use that directly adjusts a specific skill, such as Barter or Repair.
- Any items sold to merchants by the player will remain in their inventories until they restock.
1 Sells Mesmetron power cells only. 2 Glitched, see Haley's page.
Crazy Wolfgang, Crow, Doc Hoff, and Lucky Harith can be encountered on their trade routes, stopping to sell their wares at various locations. Each merchant specializes in a specific category of item, and also offers repair services. Attacking any caravan merchant will result in all four caravan merchants refusing to trade with the player.
At Canterbury Commons, Uncle Roe offers the player a map showing the paths of the merchants and their various trade stops. He also gives the option of investing in any of the caravans. The player can choose to invest twice in each merchant, with 200 and then 500 caps (or 100 and then 250 with the Master Trader perk).
Investing in a caravan allows that merchant to sell a wider variety and higher quality of items, and increases the number of caps they have available when trading. It also raises their Repair skill (up to 75 in one case, with the second investment), allowing them to restore the player's equipment (i.e. weapons and apparel) to near perfect condition.
Caravan merchant overview
|Caravan merchant name||Goods sold||Schematics sold||Base Repair skill||Repair skill after full investment||Repairs equipment up to:|
|Crazy Wolfgang||Junk||Rock-It Launcher||15||75||85%|
|Doc Hoff||Chems||Nuka grenade||15||65||79%|
|Lucky Harith||Weapons & Ammunition||Shishkebab||20
(incl. + 5 from outfit)
(incl. + 5 from outfit)
Caravan guard overview
All caravan guards are equipped with R91 assault rifles and leather armor. They are significantly better combatants than most other human non-player characters, and are roughly on par with a non-player character companion or super mutant master in terms of durability.
Each caravan follows the same route across the wastelands. They often use roads even though the roads are dilapidated. In order of travel, the merchants stop just outside each of the following areas:
- Canterbury Commons
- Temple of the Union
- Agatha's House
- Paradise Falls
- Evergreen Mills
- Rivet City
The merchants cycle through the caravan waypoints in the same order: Doc Hoff, Crazy Wolfgang, Crow, then Lucky Harith. They move around the game world at different rates depending on whether time passes in real game-time, or wait-time. For example, if you are looking at Doc Hoff and use the Wait feature to jump ahead 2–3 hours, Crazy Wolfgang will appear there instead. However, if you do not use the Wait feature and actually stand there in real game-time, no one will appear for the next 5+ hours.
If you are outside one of the regular stop points and the merchant you want is not there, using the Wait feature to jump ahead 1–2 hours will force the next merchant in line to appear. Waiting for three days near a merchant will cause them to re-stock their inventory, while remaining in the same location.
Even if the caravan owner and bodyguard are dead, their pack brahmin will still follow the trade route. However, the brahmin offers no interaction options. Even if the key to the merchant's inventory is looted from his body, the dead merchant's inventory will never restock on the brahmin.
Caravan death and injury
Caravan merchants have more health than standard non-player characters, and their caravan guard bodyguards are significantly tougher than normal, even wearing their basic leather armor. Both the merchants and their guards also carry a couple of stimpaks for healing wounds in combat. Pack brahmin have a large amount of health, considerably more than a regular brahmin.
Nonetheless, caravan merchants are still susceptible to death due to the dangers of their routes: deathclaws, yao guai, Enclave soldiers, raiders and super mutants. Although the merchants usually slip by the danger if the player is not in the area, caravans may be attacked any time they are in the same area or cell as the player—regardless of whether they are visible or not. Certain areas of the route are extremely dangerous, for example the route from Megaton to Rivet City goes past Arlington Library and the Citadel, through Central DC, and across the super mutant-infested bridge across the pipes leading into Jefferson Memorial. As the player progresses along the main quest and achieves higher levels, the more powerful monsters will take a toll on the caravan merchants. The Enclave will establish camps directly on the caravan route or near enough to produce an encounter, which will pose a problem if the Merchant approaches the camp while you are in the area. Late in the game, it is not uncommon to see a lone merchant without either their pack brahmin or guard. Caravan merchants do not recover health and once they or their guards die, they do not respawn.
- Because of this transient nature, it is advisable to consider the caravan a temporary system meant to be used early in the game.
- Early in the game, Talon Company mercs may spawn near the Temple of the Union. They can make quick work of the caravans, leading to a very premature caravan end. If you want to keep the caravans alive, you will want to kill the Talon Company mercs.
- If you see a caravan near an unsafe place, try fast-traveling away or eliminating the threat. See below for passive techniques to protect these characters.
- If a caravaneer dies and you take the key to his brahmin off of his corpse, and then subsequently loot the brahmin, it will say at the end of the game that you killed the merchant, whether or not you actually caused the merchant's death.
You can check to see if a Merchant is dead by talking with Uncle Roe and asking to invest. You cannot invest in a dead Merchant. Any surviving bodyguard will hang around Uncle Roe's house in Canterbury Commons. A dead pack brahmin, however, has been known to respawn. If the caravan merchant's brahmin survived, you may still encounter it fully stocked wandering the Wasteland.
On the PC you can recover the merchant using the console. See Recovering missing non-player character in Fallout 3 for details on how. However the guard and brahmin seem to exhibit AI-problems when recalled if the merchant has died once before. They will run ahead of the merchant rather than follow him around, and will get themselves killed again in seconds. Alternatively, on the PC you can set the merchants and their party to unkillable using the console command setessential BaseID 1 for each of the three entities in each party. Each merchant's BaseID and those of his followers can be looked up on the Form ID Page.
Increasing caravan survivability
You may be able to stave off the demise of a caravan merchant by placing (reverse pickpocket) better armor, weapons, ammunition and stimpaks on them and their bodyguard. You should have a decent Sneak skill in order to add items without being detected very often, or use a Stealth Boy to help as well as clothing that adds to Agility to make the process easier. Save before you attempt to place anything, because a pickpocket failure will cause them to turn hostile. Assuming you do this at Megaton, after you place armor or weapons on them you should go into Megaton through the door, turn around and come back out to see whether or not they have equipped the new armor or weapon. The stats and/or condition of the new weapon or armor will likely need to be higher than what they currently have before they will equip it.
- Karma loss is 'per transaction', so be prepared for a significant karmic disruption if good-aligned.
- Consider keeping the weapon class the same as what they already have equipped in order to ensure that the weapon will be useful to them. They all seem to use Small Guns class weapons so you can give them a Chinese assault rifle that is fully repaired instead of a weapon that uses Big Guns or Energy Weapons because their Small Guns skill may be higher than the other skills.
- The railway rifle works well with its long range, improved limb damage and +30 critical. The unique sound can also alert you when they are near and could use some backup. Unlike you, they only need one spike for ammunition to replenish itself, so availability is not an issue.
- While Crazy Wolfgang and Crow are only skilled in Small Guns, Lucky Harith is skilled in both Small Guns and Energy Weapons, and can use a plasma rifle very effectively. Doc Hoff has no tagged combat skills other than Melee Weapons, but giving him a melee weapon may cause him to rush at enemies, making him more susceptible to damage.
- While the merchants are generally only skilled in Small Guns, their bodyguards have 100 Big Guns skill, and can effectively use a minigun or Gatling laser. (Confirmed on Xbox 360, unknown to PC and PS3)
- Backup weapons can be useful for the times that a weapon is knocked out of their hands. They will still have the one that they were using previously, but remember that their old weapon is in need of repair and not as good as the one you can give them.
- If you place a weapon that uses different ammunition, you must also place 1 round of ammunition for that weapon, but that's all they need because they will never use it up.
- You will lose some Karma (5 points per item placed), however, it may be worth it; and Karma can be gained easily (you can always give purified water to one of the beggars outside of Megaton, Tenpenny Tower or Rivet City).
- In the case of Lucky Harith, if you place other armor on him his repair skill will decrease by 5, as he gets a bonus from the Red Racer jumpsuit he is wearing. The other caravan merchants have different bonuses that do not affect their repair skill (Crazy Wolfgang's normal clothing confers a +5 to barter).
- Wolfgang's and Hoff's repair skills can be improved by another 5 points by reverse-pickpocketing a Red Racer jumpsuit or RobCo jumpsuit with better than 75% condition. Even better is the workman's coveralls, which raises repair by 10.
- On the PC you can use console commands to give them items. See Fallout 3 console commands. The commands are the same as those for the player, but instead of using player.[command] syntax, simply click on them and type the command or, alternatively, use PRID + RefID (the same as clicking on them). PC only!!
- If you plan on giving Crow a different weapon, it must be a weapon outside of the Small Guns skill such as the minigun or a Gatling laser as he won't equip any other small gun. But Crow is only skilled in small guns, in terms of an offensive skill, so either give him a better conditioned scoped .44 magnum, more .44 magnum rounds, or both along with better armor and some stimpaks.
- If you kill a merchant and loot the key, everything you could buy from him/her is located in their local inventory.
- If you kill a caravan merchant and loot the key, their inventory is at Uncle Roe's house in Canterbury Commons, and can be taken.
- While merchants are neutral towards the player unless antagonized, they will not drop ears (see Contract Killer for more details).
- Merchants can make fairly deadly foes at early levels due to the pets they occasionally have. Scavenger's yao guai can be just as lethal as a regular wasteland yao guai. It is not recommended that a low-level character attack one for his merchandise.
- The Canterbury Commons merchants can have their inventories improved by investing in each one's caravan through Uncle Roe in Canterbury Commons. Their wares will become cheaper and all items will be in better condition. They will carry better weapons and clothing, more chems and stimpaks, and more miscellaneous items that can be used with the workbench (see Merchant Empire).
- If you kill a merchant and loot the key, you can pickpocket the pack brahmin and take the merchant's inventory from the brahmin.
- In some cases, the merchants will all stop moving along their routes. This appears to last the entire game, and does not prevent the player from trading with them if they can be found. While the player can no longer wait for the merchant they want, the advantage is that they will no longer have to pass enemy camps, greatly increasing the chance that the merchants will survive.
- This bug was fixed at least once, on the 360, by finding the location of every merchant, then fast traveling rapidly between them and then to other areas (as quickly as possible). Eventually the merchants began to rotate through their routes again.
- Ben Canning and give him water. After 1–2 hours he will leave and take the same route as the merchants, thus unlocking all the subsequent caravans. On the other hand, if you don't want this bug to be fixed, don't talk to him and leave him alone. Another way to fix this bug is to meet
- After installing the 1.4 patch and starting a new game, the merchants seem to appear alone without a guard or brahmin escort.
- When a caravan merchant is traveling alone, without a guard or brahmin, it may be a bug where the guard and/or brahmin is too far away from the caravan to spawn with it when the player waits outside of a city. In order to fix this simply run up to the caravan and wait for him to greet you. In the middle of the greeting click wait, then wait for 24 hours or so. The caravan guard and or brahmin should now be with the merchant and will travel and spawn with him.