Lore Explainer – Fallout: An Introduction to Power Armor

Power armor is perhaps the most iconic part of Fallout’s post-apocalyptic setting, representing the high point of the player’s power level and mastery of the game. Power armor is on the cover of nearly every game in the series, and it’s popular enough for Fallout 4 to base major parts of its gameplay on the idea of collecting and customizing personal suits of armor. Even here at Goonhammer, when discussing Fallout Factions, a lot of the excitement is about using the Brotherhood of Steel list and figuring out exactly how many suits of power armor you can get into one list, and which of the existing releases are best for representing your team.

Today we’re going to take a look at the in-universe origins of power armor, and what it means to the people who occupy the wasteland as opposed to those of us playing the game. Starting with the T-45 and covering the main series of power armor models, I’ll be focusing on the suits that are relevant to the tabletop games, and leaving an exhaustive list to the various Fallout wikis that exist online. I’ll issue a general spoiler warning for the Fallout universe, but shouldn’t be discussing events directly from the games too much.

Brotherhood of Steel Outcasts, built using the Brotherhood Heavy Armor plastic kit. Credit: SRM


The T-45 armor is the original set of power armor developed by the West-Tek company from 2065-2067. In the 2060’s, the United States was running out of fossil fuels, so they found themselves unable to deploy traditional tanks and other combat vehicles. Desperate to still project military power, the race to develop self-powered combat armor began. Once fusion cells were developed in 2066, directly leading to the invasion of Alaska by the Chinese military, West-Tek rushed to put the T-45 power armor into production. 

Being the first suit of power armor developed, the T-45 is pretty rudimentary. The protection isn’t great, and it can’t move around too well, but it does carry heavy weaponry into combat and that was enough at the time of initial production. The T-45 stopped Chinese expansion outside of Alaska, but had too many weaknesses to do more than that. It held the lines for nearly a decade, but failed spectacularly in the US’s counter-invasion of China leading to the deployment of the next model, the T-51.

The T-45d, the basic version of the T-45 power armor, can be found in every Fallout game from Fallout 3 onward. It’s used by the brotherhood on both coasts, but primarily by the Capital Wasteland area Brotherhood of Steel, with both the main group led by Sentinel Lyons and the Outcasts employing them heavily. The New California Republic also uses the suit, but strips out all of the servos and everything that makes it “power” armor so it can be used without any specialized training.

On the tabletop, Modiphius produces one box of T-45 power armor as a plastic kit, and one in resin. We have a review of the plastic box by SRM here.

T-51 Armor set, courtesy of Modiphius Entertainment/Bethesda Softworks


Debuting ten years after the T-45, the T-51 is the first fully-realized suit of power armor to be developed by West-Tek. Correcting many of the T-45’s flaws, the T-51 is nimbler, sturdier, and able to deliver firepower exactly where it needs to go.  The first major deployments for the suit were in the invasion of mainland China by US forces, and in the Battle of Anchorage, which you can play through (in an embellished version) in the Operation Anchorage DLC for Fallout 3. These deployments were initially a success, with the US taking Anchorage through the use of winterized versions of the armor, but things eventually bogged down to a stalemate in China, and stayed that way until the nukes were launched.

The T-51 was also the first power armor to be deployed domestically and used against civilians. First deployed against Canadians resisting the annexation of their country by the United States, the suits would eventually be turned against Americans on their home soil, as they were used to put down riots and protests as the world got worse. 

If you’re old like me, the T-51 is the power armor from the Fallout series. It’s on the cover of the first game, and it’s the armor the soldiers are wearing when they’re committing war crimes in the opening of that game. It’s an iconic design, even if it’s crowded out a bit of later games by the T-60 and X-01. Modiphius sells one box of T-51 armor, in resin.

Paladin Danse, Knight Captain Cade, and an Eyebot from Fallout. Credit: SRM


The T-60 is the most advanced armor to be developed and put into wide use before the bombs dropped. Coming out right on the heels of the T-51, the T-60 boasted more armor than earlier models, and they tended to field energy weapons like gatling lasers or plasma guns. The heavy armor led the Brotherhood of Steel to deploy the suits in novel ways; they could jump straight out of a hovering Vertibird, falling up to 50 meters without taking a scratch.

The T-60 is in an odd place, lore-wise. It was only introduced in Fallout 4, so there hasn’t been a lot of time to really explore its origins or place in the broader universe. The T-60 and T-51 were created and deployed at basically the same time, served in the same conflicts, and were used for the same things. Both models invaded China, both models were used to murder domestic dissidents.

The T-60 is featured in the recent Fallout TV show that aired on Amazon. It has a few extra features not seen in the games, most notably a faceplate that can open and close on its own, letting the armor’s pilot see and speak out of it normally.

Modiphius doesn’t sell a box that’s specifically T-60 suits, but they can be found in several boxes for the Brotherhood of Steel. You can get some out of the Knight-Captain Cade and Paladin Danse box, the Order of the Shield box, or the Brotherhood of Steel Core Box, to name a few examples.

Brotherhood of Steel X-01 Power Armor. Credit: Lupe


The X-01 takes us firmly out of the pre-war years and gives us a suit that, while development began pre-nuclear war, only really exists in a completed form in the wasteland. Commissioned by the United States right before the bombs fell, only a few proof of concept suits existed before the war made further development impossible. The prototype suits were powerful but flawed, using new alloys like Strontium-90 to provide great protection. One suit ended up in the hands of everyone’s favorite soda company, Nuka-Cola, who combined it with their own Quantum technology to create an even more advanced model.

Decades would pass before a pair of new powers in the wasteland, The Institute and The Enclave, would each independently restart production of fully-functional X-01 armor. The Enclave used their Advanced Power Armor to keep a grip on the West Coast, until the events of Fallout 2 happened, leading them to flee to the East Coast. The Institute developed their armor as almost a side project to their synthetic life form research, which led to some truly wacky advancements like a coating for the armor that increases the user’s intelligence while it’s worn. 

The X-01 armor is my favorite out of all of the armor types because it lets the creative team flex the sci-fi muscles that are always lurking around the edges of the Fallout universe but get sidelined in favor of the more grounded bits of wasteland armor. The X-01 armor is in the same class of technology as things like the Zetan aliens, and while that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, I really enjoy running around with plasma guns and giant lasers whenever I can. 

Modiphius produces a box of X-01 suits in plastic, and you can see our review of it here. For more variants and resin models, you can pick up boxes for the Enclave, like Tesla soldiers, soldiers with plasma rifles, or the core set

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