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The Children of the Cathedral, the cult branch of Unity dictated by the Master, held influence in the Core Region until they were defeated by The Vault Dweller from Vault 13 in 2162. The Enclave held a hidden though powerful presence in the Core Region until their main base of operations, an offshore oil rig was destroyed in 2242 by the Chosen One, a descendant of the Vault Dweller. After Unity was gone and while the Enclave were crippled and emigrating east, the New California Republic (est. 2186) grew out of Shady Sands and came to dominate the region, soon following a policy of expansion.
The game takes place in the year 2161 on the West Coast of what used to be the United States of America, particularly in California. It begins in Vault 13, the protagonist's home. Vault 13's water chip, a computer chip responsible for the water recycling and pumping machinery, has broken. Armed with a PIPBoy 2000 and meager equipment, the protagonist is sent out into the remains of California to find another water chip.
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