So currently I am playing Fallout 3. I was playing Fallout New Vegas, but made some irreversible decisions and ragequit due to conflicting quests (lol). One thing I love about the Fallout series is the realism: real locations, real possible landscape (given a worldwide nuclear war, of course), real weaponry, et cetera.
However, today I decided to do a bit of research into how Radiation works in the Fallout series. In reality, nuclear radiation is a real condition, and there is a lot you can read about it online. However, I also noticed some interesting discrepancies between reality and Fallout radiation poisoning, and thought I would share my findings. *Warning* This post is sorta kinda long and has no pictures to break it up. However, it is written to be somewhat friendly with a few poor jokes.
To start, I'm just a lowly gamer/amateur electronics engineer, so what is stated below may not be entirely factual. It is based on various accounts and medical articles that I found online. Still, an interesting read nonetheless.
In Fallout, the smallest unit for measuring radiation is the rad. This has since been replaced with the Gray (Gy), but for our purposes know that 1 rad = 0.01 Gy. Also know that the maximum amount of radiation you can receive in Fallout is 1000 rads, or 10 Gy. After that, your character dies (thankfully I have no experience in doing so) (Edit: yes I do. Vault 87. 473 rads/second).
First, let's look at the maximum radiation level versus the amount of time it usually takes to attain such a level. Unless you decide to stand in certain places, the most radiation you will tend to get is 1 rad per second, only around somewhat irradiated objects. Eating irradiated food tends to add to that, usually around 6 rads for one second. With how I play, I tend to get to 100 rads in about 3 in-game days (I eat a lot of irradiated food, yay me!). Using that, it would take about a month for me to die of radiation poisoning, without treatment.
Also note the various levels of radiation sickness, which occur at 250, 500, and 750 rads. These occur despite how long it took you to attain such radiation.
In reality, things are a bit different. Less than 100 rads, even attained immediately, will typically produce no immediate symptoms other than minor blood changes. 100 to 200 rads, even delivered in less than a day, will only cause acute radiation syndrome (generally just feeling sick and later weak), but is usually not fatal. 200 to 1,000 rads delivered in a few hours (which, if you manage that, I think you're in the wrong place) will cause serious illness (fever, headache, vomiting, disorientation, weakness) with a poor outlook on the future at the upper end of the range. Doses of more than 1,000 rads are almost invariably fatal, and are usually prefaced with the aforementioned illnesses as well as hair loss, internal bleeding, low blood pressure and slow healing times for wounds.
As you can see, if you're in the wrong place and get irradiated fairly quickly, Fallout can easily mimic reality. But, since we already determined that radiation in Fallout can be administered rather slowly, it is interesting to note how the real human body reacts to high amounts of radiation in very small doses:
10 Gy = moderate redness of skin
25 Gy = ulcers with slow healing time
100 Gy = severe, quick redness of the skin, blisters/skin breakdown (in Fallout, this is part of ghoulification, see below) in 1-2 weeks, and death in 1-3 weeks.
So, in smaller doses, you can actually take TEN TIMES more radiation in reality than you can in the game. But, then you'll get called a zombie, be banished to the Underworld, be hated by most everyone... at least you'll be friends with any Super Mutants you happen upon! By the way, it's impossible for a human to become a Super Mutant. Sorry. No real-life Hulk for you. Oh, and by the time you undergo Ghoulification, you'll probably be dead. So uh... don't try that.
It's also interesting to note that your character can't actually become a ghoul simply by taking a lot of radiation. This is actually a fairly popular topic among Fallout forums, and it seems no one can quite figure out how anyone could become a ghoul. Here is what I think:
It can be assumed that Fallout Ghouls were initially affected by the atomic bombs dropping, but were able to get to safety soon enough they they did not die immediately. However, the initial nuclear heat and slow rate of radiation caused their skin to dry and flake at the ulcer/breakdown point, thus keeping their flesh from rotting more. Hence, they look half-rotted. Now, how they can live as long as they do, that I do not understand.
Now that we have covered radiation, how about curing it?
In the Fallout series, there are two forms of radiation medicine: Rad-X and Rad-Away. Rad-X is the equivalent of Potassium Iodide, which fills most of your thyroid with non-radioactive iodine, blocking radioiodine, which is radioactive iodine. However, you are still able to be irradiated via the rest of your body. This treatment can be done in reality by simply drinking or swallowing a pill of Potassium Iodide.
Rad-Away is a bit more interesting. In reality, a protein called "granulocyte colony-stimulating factor", which promotes the growth of white blood cells, can negate radiation sickness on bone marrow. Treatment with this protein-based medication increases white blood cell production, which of course helps in the whole "healing" and "removing some impurities" functions of the body. However, in the various Fallouts you tend to get shot at, so it can be assumed that Rad-Away also contains replacement blood cells. I say this because bone marrow generates blood cells, and if it is damaged your body cannot heal properly.
However, both the blood transfusion and protein treatment are rather difficult for most people to do successfully, so we can all assume that despite their numerical values, all Fallout player characters have a decent Medicine skill.
So, yeah. That's all I've got on the subject. Interesting to me anyway! Comment and let me know your thoughts on it!
(And yes, in all this research I did indeed grab a few samples of Geiger Counters. No idea what I will do with them. I also researched the oscillator within said devices and will probably find an interesting way to use it.)