Everything Fallout has revealed about the NCR

Prime Video’s Fallout season 1 touches on a Vault’s worth of lore from its video game source material — including the New California Republic. If you’ve played the Fallout games before, you’ll already be up to speed on the NCR. But if you’re a franchise newcomer, the show’s references to the NCR will probably leave you feeling a little lost.

And fair enough, too. We don’t get a whole lot of NCR backstory in Fallout season 1, apart from a brief discussion between Maximus (Aaron Moten) and Lucy (Ella Purnell) in episode 5, and a potted history scrawled on a blackboard Lucy stumbles across in episode 6. So, if you’ve still got questions about the NCR, the following guide should help fill in the gaps!

[Ed. note: The following contains spoilers for Fallout season 1.]

What is the New California Republic?

Image: Prime Video

The NCR is a federation that sprung up following the 2077 nuclear war that left the U.S. an irradiated hellscape. It was founded in New California — which encompasses a decent chunk of the West Coast and Southwest — in 2189. As such, the NCR was up and running 107 years before Lucy and Maximus visit the ruins of its capital, Shady Sands, in episode 5. According to episode 6’s blackboard, Shady Sands went kablooey in 2277, and the wider NCR subsequently nosedived.

So which states were part of the NCR in its heyday? There were five member states in total (all of which shared a border): Dayglow, Hub, Los Angeles, Maxson, and Shady. The NCR also has a foothold in parts of Northern California, Oregon, and Nevada. As a result, most of West Coast-set Fallout season 1 takes place on (or near) the NCR’s turf. This includes Vault 33, which is either in or very close to NCR territory.

Who founded the New California Republic?

As established in various Fallout media, the NCR owes its existence to survivors from Vault 15, which — like so many Vaults — gradually became a not-so-nice place to live. These folks ventured out into the Wasteland, founded Shady Sands, and (thanks to the town’s prosperity) slowly got people feeling patriotic again. A pilot government was formed in 2186 to bang out a constitution, and voters from Dayglow, Hub, Los Angeles, Maxson, and Shady voted to form the NCR three years later.

Who is in charge of the New California Republic?

According to various sources (including radio broadcasts in Fallout 4), the first NCR president was Shady Sands’ leader, Aradesh. When Aradesh vanished in 2196, his daughter, Tandi, was elected to replace him. This kicked off a run of form that would make even the most successful real-world politician blush; Tandi won every election she contested for the next 52 years. It’s easy to see why, too. As chronicled in Fallout 2 and various “series bible” documents, during Tandi’s half-century of leadership, she transformed the NCR into an economic and political powerhouse.

But nothing good lasts forever, and Tandi eventually died at the grand old age of 103. A string of successors followed, none of whom lived up to Tandi’s legacy. Two of them — Fallout: New Vegas’ Wendell Peterson and Aaron Kimball — even rolled back her progressive policies and (largely) pro-peace position. Because of this, the NCR found itself embroiled in big brouhahas from the 2250s onward, including wars with the Brotherhood of Steel and imperialist slavers Caesar’s Legion.

Moldaver (Sarita Choudhury) sitting in front of a decimated Los Angeles skyline looking at someone Image: Prime Video

Kimball is still NCR’s president when Shady Sands is reduced to rubble, and his inclusion in New Vegas — set four years after Shady Sands’ destruction — suggests this is still the case. That said, within Fallout season 1’s main 2296 narrative, Moldaver (Sarita Choudhury) is the boss of her own faction of NCR troops. Heck, she’s a quasi-religious figure to the folks in Vault 4. Does this mean Moldaver has supplanted Kimball in the intervening years? Maybe.

How technologically advanced is the New California Republic?

Very — by Fallout standards, at least. While the wider Wasteland is basically an irradiated Wild West, the NCR’s infrastructure and tech, particularly in Shady Sands, is (or seemingly was) much closer to civilization as we know it. Over the years, the NCR has built or repaired power grids (more on that later), roads, and railways (we briefly glimpse street lamps and a tram in Lucy’s memories of Shady Sands in episode 8).

The NCR also crushes it in terms of its manufacturing, medical, and (especially) agricultural industries. Crucially, the federation has rehabilitated large tracts of farming land, giving them plenty of space for massive herds of brahmin (mutant cows) and crops — with the latter maximized via computer modeling. Collectively, this keeps the NCR’s coffers full.

The NCR’s military is nothing to sneeze at, either. True, they don’t have a stockpile of power armor or some of the other goodies hoarded by the likes of the Brotherhood of Steel, but they still pack plenty of firepower. The NCR also knows how to build impressive fortifications, though they’re not quite nuke-proof (just ask anyone living in Shady Sands in 2277).

Is the New California Republic really a utopia?

Nope — though they try really hard to be. Aside from the NCR’s relatively advanced tech and infrastructure, the federation is a democratic society with courts of law. These laws include protections for ghouls and other mutants, who are largely second-class citizens in the wider Wasteland. President Tandi also brought in policies to restrict brahmin herd sizes in order to prevent barons from gaining too much political power.

That all sounds pretty sweet, right? Unfortunately, the NCR is as fallible as any human-made and -run institution, and a lot of its ideals and laws don’t always apply in practice. Ghouls and mutants still experience prejudice in parts of the republic. What’s more, the brahmin herd cap was lifted after Tandi’s death, resulting in the barons wielding undue influence, just as the NCR’s late commander-in-chief feared they one day would. There’s other evidence of NCR corruption and even quasi-colonialism littered throughout the Fallout games as well.

So, no, the NCR isn’t a utopia — not even when Shady Sands was at its peak. But it’s still as close to an outright force for good as the Fallout mythos has.

[Ed. note: The rest of this post contains spoilers for the end of Fallout season 1 (specifically after episode 5). Proceed only if you want to know some of the secrets of the Wasteland!]

What happened to the New California Republic’s capital, Shady Sands?

A screenshot from Fallout season 1, of a blackboard drawing that says “The Fall of Shady Sands: 2277” with an arrow pointing to a drawing of an atomic bomb explosion Image: Prime Video

It blew up, literally. As revealed across Fallout season 1 episodes 5 through 8, a nuclear warhead (or similar) reduced Shady Sands to a crater and a bunch of bombed-out buildings in 2277. This is arguably the Prime Video show’s biggest contribution so far to Fallout canon, as Shady Sands’ fate isn’t divulged in any of the games — not even those set after the city’s destruction.

Who gave the order to wipe Shady Sands off the map? Lucy’s dad and Vault 33 overseer Hank MacLean (Kyle MacLachlan). As Moldaver explains in the season finale, Hank’s wife, Rose, ran away to Shady Sands with li’l Lucy and her brother, Norm, in tow. Hank soon tracked them down, and when Rose refused to return to Vault 33, he snatched up the kids and nuked the joint.

What does Moldaver’s artifact do?

Another big payoff in Fallout season 1’s finale is that the show’s mysterious artifact MacGuffin is a cold fusion power source. Moldaver developed cold fusion technology as a way of ending the energy crisis in her time. However, Vault-Tec bought it and — true to form — co-opted it for decidedly less egalitarian uses.

So, when Moldaver finally gets her mitts on the artifact, the only thing on her mind is using it for its original purpose. And that’s what she does, using it to fuel what’s left of Shady Sands’ electrical grid. That’s what all those lights are: a symbol of what life could be like in the NCR, not to mention the wider Wasteland, if cold fusion power was properly harnessed.

How is the New California Republic connected to New Vegas?

The final scene in Fallout season 1 sees a power-armor-clad Hank tromping through the desert toward an iconic location from the games: New Vegas. Given power armor is only capable of limited, short-range flight, even franchise newcomers should quickly figure out that New Vegas isn’t that far away from Shady Sands. Does this mean the NCR and New Vegas are connected?

In a word: yep. In more words, the NCR and New Vegas signed a treaty in 2274 that (among other things) gives the NCR near-exclusive control of the Hoover Dam — supplying water and electricity to its member states — so long as it recognizes New Vegas’ sovereignty. Despite the treaty, the NCR has long harbored hopes of annexing New Vegas, either through diplomacy or military force.

Fallout continuity is currently unclear on whether the NCR ever succeeds in absorbing New Vegas. One of Fallout: New Vegas’ four main endings depicts just such an annexation, but the other three don’t. Current Fallout custodian Bethesda Game Studios is no help, either, remaining coy on which endings are canon. Time — and Fallout season 2 — will hopefully set the record straight!

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