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Wasteland 3 Character Builds: Attributes and Skills to choose for your starting party

Building your starting character can be the hardest part of an RPG. With no feel for how the game plays out, how are you supposed to know what skills and attributes will come in handy?

We’ve all been there. Grand plans of playing a suave gunslinger, crushed by constant skill checks for hacking computers, picking locks, and healing your allies.

Wasteland 3 is a little different, in that you can create a whole party of Rangers to support each other’s strengths and round out their weaknesses. But, this also has the potential to create dreaded choice paralysis - there are a ton of vital skills, and picking the wrong attributes for a character can leave them in a strange spot.

We’ll run through every single attribute and skill in Wasteland 3, so you know what you’re signing up for when you build your first character.


Wasteland 3 Character Build Guide:


At the beginning of the game, you’re asked to build two new characters or pick from a list of prebuilt stock. While the prebuilt characters look fun and have banter with each other, custom characters are where it’s at.

In Wasteland 3, as characters gain levels and progress they gain points in two main areas: attributes and skills.

Loosely, attributes govern the character’s innate physical and mental abilities - like Strength and Intelligence - while skills govern things they learn - like weapon proficiency and first aid.

Across your team, you want to get a good mix of different kinds of characters with different kinds of abilities - and it’s quite easy to cover pretty much all of the bases if you know what you’re doing.


Wasteland 3 Attributes


There are 7 attributes in Wasteland 3: Coordination, Luck, Awareness, Strength, Speed, Intelligence, Charisma.

Each one is powerful in its own right, but there are ones that you should favour in particular builds. And although some seem immediately less useful, you’d be surprised by their utility.

You get 14 attribute points to spend at the start of the game. This is enough to build a highly specialised character right from the off - which I’d recommend doing - with some less important attributes dropped down to 1 and the rest of your 14 points placed strategically.

Every time you level up you’ll get another attribute point to spend, so if you decide you want to change tack later on, you can do that. A veritable Homer Simpson with 1 Intelligence can be a 10 Intelligence Einstein by the end of the game with enough investment.

  • Coordination

Regardless of what type of character you want to make, Coordination is the most important attribute in Wasteland 3.

It governs your action points, which determine how much you can do in battle - and you’ll do a lot of battling in Wasteland 3. However, this doesn’t mean that you should just dump all your points into Coordination right from the start.

Even with really high Coordination, characters with bulky weapons like heavy melee and snipers practically won’t be able to fire more than one shot per turn. This means that to a certain extent, the extra points in Coordination would be wasted (even though they can be used to move around a lot).

A good rule of thumb that comes from the Wasteland 3 developers is to stick to the 2-4-6-8 marks for Coordination, because these are the break points where you get more actions. Then if you’re feeling restricted, you can boost this when you level up.

To start out, I’d recommend 4 Coordination if you’re building a slow melee user or sniper, and 6 if you’re leaning more towards lighter ranged weapons or brawling. This lets the former swing once and move per turn, with the former getting off two shots per turn.

  • Luck

The Luck attribute really has the potential to go underappreciated, since the percentage chance to trigger at low levels isn’t very impressive. However when lucky actions do pop up, they can really turn the tide of a battle.

This means that Luck maybe isn’t what you want to focus on in the early game, but is a good choice for spending your level up points on.

Additionally, Luck grants you extra penetration. This feeds into Wasteland 3’s armour system, where every attack is put up against its target’s armour rating. If the armour rating is higher than a weapon’s penetration, then it does reduced damage.

Therefore you want high penetration to make the most out of your attacks. Consider adding Luck to bladed melee, small arms, and brawling builds to enhance their offensive capabilities.

  • Awareness

Next up, Awareness is most important for ranged characters because it buffs their general hit chance as well as ranged damage. This makes it a go-to attribute for small arms, snipers, and automatic weapon characters.

Perception helps you to find hidden loot and traps in the environment, which comes up surprisingly often, but it’s the other bonuses you’re really after.

If you’re rocking a gun, then your starting character wants at least 3-4 Awareness.

  • Strength

You might think Strength is just for melee characters but, as well as buffing melee damage and throwing range, it governs your health too.

Not only do high Strength characters have more health, but they gain more health per level up as well - so it’s wise to invest in Strength early if you’re going to at all to get the biggest benefit.

Because of the effect on a character’s health pool, the Wasteland 3 developers advise that no characters should have less than 4 Strength by the end of the game. But I’ve gotten away with starting at 2 on ranged characters with decent armour.

  • Speed

While most of the other attributes are quite easy to describe, Speed is a little tougher to pin down.

Initiative is your character's chance to react when they’re surprised by an ambush and take a combat turn immediately. This happens a lot, and it’s usually better to shoot first and ask questions later.

High combat speed lets you move further per action point in battle, so isn’t a massive buff to anyone other than melee characters.

Evasion is great though, essentially giving you more health and armour without having to invest in Strength.

All of this comes together to make Speed a vital attribute for melee characters - both blunt and bladed - as well as First Aiders, and small arms users because of their low range.

Aim for about 3-4 Speed on these kind of characters.

  • Intelligence

If you’re fishing for critical hits, then Intelligence is the way to go.

While you also get an extra skill point for every 2 points of Intelligence, if you’re building a Sniper, then pop some points into Intelligence to make the most of your shots.

  • Charisma

Finally, Charisma is another attribute that’s easy to ignore but can have some massive benefits.

If you want to make a leader character, then it’s a good idea to invest early to get the biggest pay off from the experience boosts. Or you could just as easily role play a character growing into a leadership role by placing points in Charisma as you go.

Strike rate is the speed at which your character’s Strike special move charges. This is an ultra powerful hit that can also apply debuffs to enemies. Dishing these out liberally would make up for sacrifices in other areas, but isn’t totally reliable.

I generally prefer to prioritise other skills, but Charisma is still an interesting option.


Wasteland 3 Example Starting Builds


For well-rounded utility, you could always put every attribute at 3. However, you might find that your character is lacklustre at everything in the early game.

Generally, I’ve found success making more specialised characters early and rounding them out as I go.

For instance, a starting heavy melee character could have:

Wasteland 3 Heavy Melee Example Build
Attribute nameAttribute Value
Luck 1
Intelligence 1

Or a starting automatic weapons user could have:

Wasteland 3 Automatic Weapon Example Build
Attribute nameAttribute Value
Luck 1
Intelligence 1


Wasteland 3 Skills


There are tons of skills to choose from in Wasteland 3, and without playing the game first it’s tough to know which crop up more than others.

Interestingly, a character’s attributes don’t bar them from getting certain skills. A 1 Intelligence character can have high Nerd Stuff for example.

Before we go through them individually, it’s worth saying that you should avoid making a jack of all trades, master of none. Because you’ve got 6 party members to spec out, make sure each one focuses on no more than 3-4 skills over most of the game.

Don’t worry about missing skills with your original two builds - you can fill out the rest of your party soon and fill in the gaps.

By doing this you’ll be able to pass most skill checks and leave the minimum amount of content on the table during a single playthrough.

The skills that appear most often, in rough order of importance:

  • Combat skills
  • Kiss Ass
  • Hard Ass
  • Nerd Stuff
  • Explosives
  • Lockpicking
  • Mechanics
  • Animal Whisperer
  • First Aid
  • Sneaky Shit
  • Barter

Try not to double up though. For instance, if you want a sweet-talking Kiss Ass maybe don’t make them your Hard Ass too. This means if you want to swap them out later you don’t lose all of your dialogue skills.

Combat Skills - Automatic Weapons, Big Guns, Brawling, Melee, Small Arms, Sniper Rifles

Every character needs a combat skill, since there’s so much combat in Wasteland 3. However, try and get a good spread across your characters, because they all draw from the same limited ammo pool.

If you’re all chewing through 5.56 assault rifle ammo, then you’re going to be in a sticky situation very quickly.

I’d recommend having at least a couple of melee users in every party who can mop up weaker enemies without wasting ammo - heavy and bladed are both good basic options, while brawling takes a little more time and finesse.

Snipers are also very powerful, and a good option for your squishy, intelligence based characters.

General Skills - Animal Whisperer, Explosives, First Aid, Sneaky Shit, Weird Science

From the general skills branch, there are a few to consider.

Weird Science isn’t great for a first playthrough because new equipment is rare, and you’d benefit from knowing where to find it.

However, the rest of the skills are all good for starters.

Animal Whisperer lets you charm animals around the world to aid you in battle. These range from vicious wolves, to crit-boosting cats, to two-headed goats and cyborg chickens. They’re deceptively good and a really fun addition.

The Explosives skill is used a lot to disarm traps and landmines. You definitely need to have one of your core group able to deal with these or you’ll be constantly leaving loot behind.

First Aid is a good skill to have just one or two spare points in. It unlocks different healing items that a character can use on their whole team as well as dialogue options, so is nice to have.

Sneaky Shit comes up less often, but comes in handy when you’re positioning your crew for an ambush. It’s also used to disable alarms in the world. You could leave this one for a later character, because an early companion - Marshall Kwon - has good Sneaky Shit.

Exploration Skills - Armour Modding, Lockpicking, Mechanics, Nerd Stuff, Survival, Toaster Repair, Weapon Modding

As you might’ve guessed, exploration skills help you navigate and loot the wasteland and you should invest in nearly all of them.

Weapon and Armour Modding are interesting choices which add utility to your equipment, but I tend to neglect them because they’re not as exciting as opening locked chests or passing dialogue checks. They’re worth it if you want to role play a thrifty character, and you can make more cash stripping weapons and armour you find for parts than just selling them whole.

Lockpicking and Toaster Repair are very similar. Lockpicking opens up side paths and caches of loot, which is full of flavour and useful for finding different ways to complete quests.

Toasters which you fix with Toaster Repair are basically legendary chests. By investing in Toaster Repair you’re swapping the quantity of Lockpicking for a chance at quality. Weigh it up carefully.

The excitement of Survival suffers a little bit from taking stuff away from you rather than giving you more fun. On top of a minor damage buff, survival stops low level random events from clogging up your time in the Kodiak. NPC companions tend to come with this skill, so I don’t usually build it into characters.

Mechanics comes up quite a lot in a combat scenario, where you can blow up generators to destroy all enemy turrets at once. It also opens a decent amount of doors throughout the game. All of that’s without talking about its usefulness in keeping your car healthy.

Finally, Nerd Stuff lets you hack computers to open doors as well as giving you more dialogue options throughout your adventure - this is an easy recommendation.

Social Skills - Barter, Hard Ass, Leadership, Kiss Ass

Even though Kiss Ass doesn’t sound like a good thing, it’s comparable to the speech skill in other RPGs. It comes up constantly, and you should have at least one high-level Kiss Ass in any party if you want to take the optional routes in quests.

Hard Ass comes up slightly less often, but is very similar - often saving you from violence with the rowdier post-apocalyptic factions. It’s worth having one of each in your wider squad.

Leadership is an absolute must on high Charisma characters, and is the entire point of having that attribute.

Barter on the other hand is an interesting utility skill. There are quite a few dialogue checks you can pass with Barter, while it also improves your mercantile experience with better prices. It’s not a total necessity but a nice to have.

For more on Wasteland 3, you can check out our preview impressions, here.

About the Author

James Billcliffe avatar

James Billcliffe

Guides Editor

James suffers so you don't have to. Whether it's raging so hard at Sekiro that he bit his own hand, or confronting a 20-year fear of zombies to complete Resident Evil 2 eight times, he creates guides and reviews for the biggest blockbuster games. He has a Masters Degree in Journalism and a BA in Linguistics that he never got a chance to flex until Wordle came along.

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