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Mesa Verde design document/1
VB design document.png
AuthorJeff Husges
PublisherInterplay (leaked internal document)
Release DateSeptember 9, 2005
Downloadsee main page of document
Mesa Verde design document
Part 2
Gametitle-VB.pngThe following is based on Van Buren and has not been confirmed by canon sources.

This is part 1 of the Mesa Verde design document for Van Buren, the cancelled Fallout 3 by Black Isle Studios.


1 Main page of document
2 Part 1
3 Part 2
4 Part 3
Document start icon.png The following is the original document or a transcript thereof.


Mesa Verde (Ciphers)
Version 1
VB DD07 loc Mesa Verde.jpg
11/25/2003 12:50:00 AM

Hidden away in the shadows of a large cliff, near the top of a mesa rising from the desert floor, is the village of Mesa Verde. It is the home of the Ciphers, a.k.a. the Painted People, thanks to their extensive use of body paint. They're one of the smallest tribes in the area, but their hard-to-reach village on the mesa enables them to hold out against superior numbers of aggressors.

The Ciphers are unusual for tribals because they're skilled in mathematics and electronics, thanks to the extensive schematics on the walls of their village. They don't realize it, but they have the schematic for a chip necessary to release the remaining the rocket at Bloomfield from its docking clamps. If the clamps aren't released, the rocket goes nowhere and will most likely explode on the launchpad. Building the docking clamp chip is critical path.

This area consists of four maps:

Map area Transition Map name Map size Complexity
1. Canyon Full-party Medium Low – mesa tileset
2. Caves Full-party Small Low – caves tilesets
3. Village Full-party Medium Medium
4. Mesa Top Full-party Small Medium – one or two unique metatiles

Potential Geometry Changes: There is an unstable cliff in the Canyon, near the Viper camp. A character with a good Traps skill (or just a really lucky one) can use explosives to cause the cliff to collapse on the Vipers. In addition, there probably should be a big, blackened crate where the Viper camp used to be if the PC fires the Laser Cannon at the Vipers.

Map Flow

VB DD07 map Mesa Verde flowchart.jpg

Area Background

In the weeks following the War, a group of scientists and soldiers based at the atomic laboratory at Los Alamos, New Mexico, wandered north with a band of other survivors (looking a bit like the group in The Stand), looking for a place of relative safety. They assumed that they were the only "civilized" people left, since everyone else they encountered attacked them, trying to take their food, water, and clothes. When they discovered one of the ancient pueblos at Mesa Verde, they decided to set up camp there.

The group carried only a limited amount of technology with them. The soldiers had pistols and rifles, and the scientists carried one barely working computer, enough parts to build several water makers and a crude wind turbine to power them, several lead-lined boxes containing enriched uranium, and a small supply of medicine. The rest of the band had a variety of miscellaneous gear which most contributed for group use.

A decade later, the computer began to fail. Fearing that the technology of the Old World would be forever lost, the scientists began painting and carving electronic schematics into the walls of the pit (called a kiva by the builders of the pueblo). At the same time, they insisted that mathematics be emphasized when educating the village children so that their descendants would understand how to use the schematics. Because they were steeped in math from a very early age, the villagers tend to use a lot of math terms to express themselves. This occasionally confusing, cryptic way of speaking caused them to be dubbed "Ciphers" by educated wasteland dwellers who thought they might be speaking in some type of code. The Ciphers merely shrugged and accepted the name.

As the years passed, the Ciphers forgot their disciplined, scientific roots and became more concerned with everyday survival rather than meaningless scientific theories. When it comes to electronic devices and weapons, the Ciphers know more about how it works than why it works: "The symbols say put this and this together, and then this happens. Why? Who knows? As long as the numbers are right, who cares?"

The emphasis on mathematics in their culture has led to Ciphers to assign an almost mystical significance to specific numbers. It's the closest thing to a religion they have. Each Cipher is believed to have a personal number, determined by the Nemonik at their birth. Ciphers will take their personal number into consideration when doing almost anything, from heading out to hunt on the sixth day of the month to choosing whom to marry. It's all very confusing to outsiders.

The village at Mesa Verde was tiny to begin with, having barely enough room to house all the scientists, soldiers, and other survivors. Nearly a century later, the descendants of the original settlers had outgrown the space and resources available. Many families chose to adopt a nomadic lifestyle to avoid the perpetual thirst and hunger. Only those families with very young children or those Ciphers too old and feeble to travel remain full-time in the village.

Both Cipher men and women are capable fighters, and even the children are taught how to fight as soon as they're able as a matter of practicality. A typical Cipher nomad band consists of two to three families traveling together. They usually have at least one type of electronic device like a cattle prod or an ultrasonic generator to ward off wild animals.

At the top of the mesa, the Ciphers have an array of water makers which condense moisture from the air and produce drinkable water. They have a wind turbine which generates a small amount of electricity, enough to power the water makers. However, it's not a very quick operation, and barely enough water is produced each day to serve the village's needs.

Year Event
2077 The bombs fall. Surviving scientists and soldiers based in Los Alamos band together with other survivors they encounter for safety. They set up a temporary camp in a cliff dwelling at Mesa Verde and attempt to contact the federal government for further instructions. No contact is ever made. A small vault is built into the cliff side to shield the only computer they have from the elements.
2088 The computer fails. The scientists resort to carving their most important schematics into the kiva walls.
2089 Scientists began to drill the village children in the ways of mathematics and science so that knowledge is not forgotten. They hope that their descendants will one day help bring civilization back to the wasteland.
2180 With the village having outgrown available space and resources, many Ciphers adopt a nomadic lifestyle, returning to the village only occasionally to resupply or raise children until they're old enough to walk on their own.
2253, October 23 "The Prisoner" escapes from Leavenworth, dooming the world and creating a holocaust of epic proportions. F3 Begins

Emotional Porn


Cipher-Viper Conflict

For refusing to follow Hecate's ways, Hecate has sent a band of Vipers to destroy the Ciphers. However, the situation is currently at a stalemate: the Vipers can't get into the village, but neither can the Ciphers get out.

PC as the Villain

If the PC ends up helping the Ciphers out, he'll be ruining the relatively stable situation which previously existed between the tribes. Helping the Ciphers against the Vipers will cause Hecate to tighten her grip around the tribes under her sway out of fear that they, too, may start considering resistance. The more passive members of those tribes will not appreciate the PC interfering in private tribal business.

NPC Companion Uses


Locations/Maps/Map Key


A small abode pueblo built along the underside of an overhanging cliff. A chasm splits the village into three sections, requiring the Ciphers to use rope suspension bridges to span the gap. The two most apparent features of the village are a large covered pit near the village entrance and a partially complete laser cannon aimed at the Viper camp down on the canyon floor.

Village Map

VB DD07 map Village.jpg
  1. Entrance/Exit: This is a narrow path leading down the canyon floor.
  2. Village Ladder: This 40' tall ladder is wide enough for two people to climb side by side. It's the only way to reach the village courtyard.
  3. Food Preparation Area: Vegetables and game meat are cut and dried here, or cooked into stew. The Ciphers are very watchful over the food supply since the village must ration its food.
  4. Suspension Bridge: A rope and wood suspension bridge spanning the chasm.
  5. Kiva: Pronounced "kee-vah". A ladder leads 20' down into this 40' wide covered pit (there is a hole in center of the cloth covering, though). The sides of the pit are painted and carved with mathematical formulas and electronic schematics explaining how to build a variety of electronic devices. Many of the paintings and carvings have faded due to age. The Nemonik and his assistants are found here most of the time, studying the schematics.
  6. Trig's Workshop: Scattered all the tables in this building are numerous bits of tech scavenged from the wasteland, along with mechanic's tools. It functions as a Mechanic's Lab.
  7. Trail to the Mesa Top: This trail follows the side of the cliff up to the mesa top.
  8. Residences: All of the rooms are linked, but curtains of beads and cloths separate each individual room. There isn't much privacy in Mesa Verde.
  9. Storage Cave: Deep in the cliff side is a natural cave which the original settlers enlarged into three separate chambers. Here, they stored the uranium, the computer, and excess weapons.
    1. Uranium Storage: Several lead boxes containing about 20 pounds of weapons-grade uranium are in this room. The room hasn't been opened in over a century, and the door is both locked and trapped with a very loud alarm. The alarm will go off once the door is opened.
    2. Computer Room: A Vault-Tec computer with a broken power supply.
    3. Armory: An armory used to store weapons. There are several guns stored here because the village lacked the ammo to use them.
  10. Canyon Floor: This isn't accessible to the player, but when he's standing at the edge of the village, he can see hundreds of feet down into the valley floor.
  11. Laser Cannon: A big laser death cannon, pointed right at the Viper camp on the canyon floor. Unfortunately, the cannon doesn't work. If the PC gets it working, the cannon can only fire once before it self-destructs due to its makeshift construction.
  12. Isaac's Dwelling: The ex-BoS Scribe Isaac makes his home here. During the day, he can be found in Trig's workshop, assisting her.
  13. Azkee's Dwelling: This is the traditional dwelling of the Counter, Azkee in this case. He's got nicer stuff than most of the other villagers
  14. Hospital: A crude hospital. A sick Cipher child and woman lie here. They have the worst cases of radiation sickness in the village.


  1. Player enters the map for the first time:
    1. Player is hailed by a Cipher sentry and questions are asked. If the player isn't a total jerk, he's allowed into the village.
    2. If the PC is dressed like a Viper or a Daughter of Hecate, the sentry will freak and sound the alarm, but the PC will have a chance to explain things.
  2. Player enters the map subsequent times:
    1. If the player got booted from the village because he got caught stealing, the sentry confronts him. PC will need a good Persuasion to be allowed back into the village.
    2. If the wind turbine is broken, or the food was poisoned, the PC is not allowed back into the village because everyone is certain he's to blame. PC will need to be persuasive to be allowed back in. This does NOT happen if the PC gets Radian to do those deeds.
    3. If the PC is dressed like a Viper or a Daughter of Hecate, the sentry will freak and sound the alarm, but the PC will have a chance to explain things.
  3. Player enters the map with a bunch of Vipers with him.
    1. Instant combat. The sentries shout the alarm and attempt to block the entrance to the village. After a few rounds, the villagers at the mesa to spawn in at the east and rush to join the battle.
  4. Player fires the Laser Cannon:
    1. This causes most of the Vipers at the camp on the Canyon map to be fried and dead the next time the player goes there. Drake and a handful of other Vipers (3-4) will still be alive and very, very angry.
  5. Poisoned food supply:
    1. If the food supply is poisoned, the next day many of the Ciphers will be dead or dying in a group around the hospital.
  6. Attacking a villager:
    1. Sentries sound the alarm, and the rest of the village gangs up on the PC.
  7. Getting caught stealing:
    1. Shouts of "Thief!" will draw Azkee and a group of villagers to the PC, and they'll firmly ask him to hand back what he stole and then leave the village.
  8. Village Prosperity:
    1. If the PC hasn't done anything to help the Ciphers get food and the Vipers are still around, they'll float stuff about being hungry.
    2. If the PC has cleared the canyon caves and food is getting smuggled in, the floats will reflect that.
    3. If the molerat caves are restocked, the Ciphers will mention it.
    4. If the crops are known to be contaminated, the Ciphers will complain, UNLESS the PC has taught them how to hunt better, in which case they'll wish for something other than meat for a change.
    5. If the PC brings them a GECK, everyone will be happy.

Mesa Top

A small abode pueblo built along the underside of an overhanging cliff. A chasm splits the village in two, requiring the Ciphers to use rope suspension bridges to span the gap. The two most apparent features of the village are a large covered pit near the village entrance and a partially complete laser cannon aimed at the Viper camp down on the canyon floor.

Mesa Top Map

VB DD07 map Mesa Top.jpg
  1. Trail to Village: This trail winds around the side of the mesa to the village. Full-party transition.
  2. Greenhouses: Lacking access to glass, the Ciphers draped clear plastic over simple wooden frames to create a pair of greenhouses. Crops like soybeans, squash, cabbage, and carrots are grown in shallow hydroponic bays.
  3. Water Maker Array: Sixteen electric water makers condense moisture from the air into drinking water. They're powered by the nearby wind turbine.
  4. Small Covered Vat: The water makers don't produce very much water, barely filling this small covered vat each day. The Counter maintains strict water discipline. There needs to be enough water left over for the crops, so each villager is only gets a set amount of water.
  5. Wind Turbine: A tall wind turbine. Its triple-bladed propeller rotates steadily in the constant breeze atop the mesa. It generates electricity for the water makers.
  6. Storage Shed: A plain wooden storage shed with a locked door. It holds gardening tools and an empty barrel which once contained radioactive fertilizer.


  1. Player enters the map for the first time:
    1. When the player gets the center of the map, he'll see all the Ciphers ganging up on a group of weedlings which spawned in one of the greenhouses. After the weedlings have been defeated, the Ciphers will resume work in the greenhouses.


Rocky canyons surrounding the base of the mesa. At a junction of several canyons, including the one which leads to the village, is a Viper encampment. They stop anyone who's trying to go to or come from the Cipher village.

Canyon Map

VB DD07 map Canyon.jpg
  1. Transition to World Map: The exit to the world map. Full-party transition.
  2. Trail to Village: A trail follows the side of the mesa up to the village. Full-party transition.
  3. Canyon Cave: A narrow hole in this cave descends into underground caverns.
  4. Viper Camp: A band of badass Viper Raiders are camped here, stopping anyone from coming and going to the village.
  5. Alexandra's Camp: Alexandra has set a small camp behind a 3-foot high wall of rocks. She caught sight of Blackjack several days ago and chased him here. Blackjack is worthless to her dead, but she doesn't have the faintest idea how to get him out of the cave without facing his minigun. She's hoping she can starve him out, but with his super mutant endurance, that doesn't seem too likely.
  6. Blackjack's Cave: Blackjack the super mutant, one of the escaped prisoners from the Big Empty, has barricaded himself inside this cave. He had been running from Alexandra, who'd been on his trail for days, and he didn't realize the canyon didn't go any further. He claims to have a minigun (actually just a bundle of sticks and pipes painted black with charcoal), and hopes Alexandra will eventually give up and go away.
  7. Unstable Cliff: The entire side of this cliff is extremely unstable. An explosive could bring the whole thing crashing down.
  8. Other Canyon Cave: The narrow hole in this cave descends into underground caverns.


These short series of caves runs underneath the Mesa Verde canyon. They were once home to a rather hefty population of molerats, but that population has since been decimated by the Vipers' pet two-headed rattlesnakes. The player can use these caves to bypass the Viper blockade, but he'll probably have to deal with the snakes.

Caves Map

VB DD07 map Caves.jpg
  1. Hole: A hole leading upward to the canyon above.
  2. Hole: Another hole leading to the canyon above. The ground around this hole looks heavily traveled by both molerats and humans.
  3. Molerat Nest: This used to be the main molerat nest until they got eaten by the rattlesnakes. There are a lot of shiny baubles and junk scattered throughout the nest.

Art Requirements


Mesa tileset. Need props for the Viper camp. Also will need a big pile of rubble to simulate a destroyed cliff which will appear on top of the Viper camp if the player successfully demolishes the nearby cliff.


Cave tileset. Need props for a messy-looking molerat nest.


Pueblo tileset for the dwellings, mesa tileset for the environment. Tribal propset mostly, with a few techy-looking items: a mechanics' workbench covered with wires and parts, and a big metal footlocker for Isaac's quarters. The kiva (a big pit) needs a cloth covering across the top, and the walls are covered with carvings and paintings of electronic schematics.

Mesa Top

Mesa tileset for the environment. Need meta-tiles for the wind turbine and the water maker array (or just one big meta-tile). The wind turbine should be a cross between a low-tech windmill and one of those sleek turbines you see out in the desert – it should look like something the villagers cobbled together using whatever they found lying around. The roofs of the greenhouses are made of plastic, but that may just require a different texture. Crop tiles, and gardening-type tools to use as props in the toolshed.

Cast of Characters


Azkee (AZ-kee)

ST 4 PE 6 EN 5 CH 6 IN 7 AG 5 LU 5

Intermediate character. Male human. Middle-aged. The Counter, the leader of the Ciphers. Shaved head, wears an old pocket calculator around his neck as the symbol of his office. He's progressive, and would like to see the Ciphers start using more and more technology to improve their lot in life. He's willing to ally the Ciphers with a technological powerhouse like the Brotherhood, regardless of the consequences.

Morning: Wanders around the village area, checking up on people.

Afternoon: Wandering around the mesa top, checking up on people.

Evening: Back in the village itself.

Night: Asleep in his dwelling.

The Nemonik (Nee-MON-ik)

ST 3 PE 6 EN 4 CH 6 IN 8 AG 4 LU 5

Intermediate character. Male human. Old guy who looks a little like Obi-Wan (the old version). The "memory keeper" for the Ciphers. He's a conservative, believing that the Ciphers will come out much better in the long run by limiting their use of technology. He's worried that Azkee will bring trouble to Mesa Verde. He also believes that encouraging Trig's inventions is the wrong path for her to take, and won't be very happy if the PC helps complete her death cannon.

Morning: In the kiva, teaching the village children mathematics and showing them how to build electronics.

Afternoon: In the hospital, doing his best to attend to the sick people.

Evening: Back in the kiva, studying the schematics.

Night: Asleep in his dwelling.


ST 5 PE 7 EN 5 CH 5 IN 7 AG 6 LU 5

Intermediate character. Female human in her late 20s. Skilled and smart, but tends to overestimate her own abilities. Can build a lot of electronics. She sings the schematics aloud as she works: "ahr 1, 3 vee resistor, wire sequence 1 dash 29, 3 dash 103 dash 109, ahr 2, 1 point 5 vee resistor...". Trig is a store where the player can buy electronic goodies like infrared goggles and Geiger counters.

Morning to Evening: In her workshop, working on stuff.

Night: Asleep in one of the dwellings.

Denom (DEE-nom)

ST 6 PE 5 EN 6 CH 5 IN 5 AG 5 LU 4

Intermediate character. Male human. Has been walking around lately looking quite pleased with himself thanks to the mysterious prosperity of the crops. The mechanic/gardener responsible for maintaining the wind turbine, water makers, and greenhouses.

Morning to Evening: Up at the mesa top, wandering between the turbine and the greenhouses.

Night: Asleep in one of the dwellings.


Major character? Male super mutant. Prisoner #21. Normally very easy-going and friendly. He's currently barricaded inside a cave down in the canyon, cornered by Alexandra. She won't go in after him because Blackjack claims he has a minigun: "Of COURSE I have a minigun! I'm a super mutant. We always carry big, powerful weapons. So, uh, don't come any closer!" His "minigun" is actually just a bunch of big sticks and pipes tied together in a bundle and smeared with charcoal to dye them black. He's also got a big pack of supplies, so he'll be able to hang out in the cave for quite some time.

Morning to Afternoon: Helping Trig out in her workshop.

If the PC helps him escape from Alexandra, he'll disappear from Mesa Verde and reappear at the casino in Hoover Dam. If Alexandra captures him, he'll disappear from Mesa Verde and reappear as a prisoner of Caesar's Legion at Denver.


ST 4 PE 7 EN 6 CH 7 IN 8 AG 6 LU 5

Major character. Male human in his 50s. Former BoS Scribe. He humbly serves as Trig's assistant and keeps a low profile. He stand outs because he doesn't have the body paint like a normal Cipher. He's got his old set of power armor stashed in his dwelling, which he might be willing to give to a player who does a lot of good things for the Ciphers.

Isaac can give the PC a great deal of information about the Brotherhood. The player will need to be on Isaac's good side if he wants to find out the location of Maxson's Bunker from him. Isaac's goodwill may also be necessary if the player wants to get all the runaway Scribes to return to the bunker.

Isaac can also offer upgrades to high technology equipment, or even build it for the player, if the player brings him the parts. He wasn't an Elder Scribe for nothing.

Morning to Afternoon: Helping Trig out in her workshop.

Evening: Hanging around the wind turbine, enjoying the view.

Night: Asleep in one of the dwellings.

Vipers (20)

ST 6 PE 6 EN 6 CH 3 IN 5 AG 6 LU 5

Minor characters. Male humans. Part of Hecate's personal army. They're armed with melee weapons only.

Morning to Evening: Most of them will be hanging around the camp, with a few on the outskirts acting as sentries. A few will be asleep in the camp.

Night: Many of the Vipers will be asleep, while the guys who were asleep during the day will be awake and acting as sentries now.


ST 7 PE 6 EN 7 CH 5 IN 5 AG 6 LU 5

Intermediate character. Male human. Tall, muscular guy who looks like a heavily-tattooed Vin Diesel. Leader of the Viper band at Mesa Verde. He's not particularly evil, but his unshakeable loyalty to Hecate and the Daughters often requires him to perform cruel deeds. Carries a large machete.

Cipher Adults (18)

ST 5 PE 6 EN 5 CH 4 IN 6 AG 5 LU 5

Minor characters. Male and female humans. These generic villagers will be in two places during the day. A small group (3-4) will be in the kitchen. There will be a group on watch (4), and the rest of them will be up at the mesa top working in the greenhouses. Lightly armed with spears, knives, and the occasional zip gun.

Morning to Evening: Greenhouse workers will be up at the mesa top, diligently taking care of the crops. Kitchen workers will be making soybean paste and other stuff in the kitchen.

Night: Asleep in one of the dwellings.

Cipher Children (7)

ST 3 PE 6 EN 4 CH 5 IN 5 AG 6 LU 5

Minor characters. Male and female human children.

Morning: Sitting around in the kiva listening to the Nemonik lecture.

Afternoon: Running around the village playing.

Evening: Sitting around the kitchen.

Night: Asleep in the dwellings.


ST 5 PE 6 EN 5 CH 4 IN 6 AG 5 LU 5

Intermediate character. He's the Cipher who seems to be perpetually on duty whenever the PC enters the village. Armed with a pipe rifle and a knife.


ST 5 PE 5 EN 4 CH 3 IN 5 AG (2)5 LU 5

Intermediate character. Male human. A Cipher suffering from a nervous disorder. Shakes a lot, especially in his hands. The PC can use medicine to cure him or make him a slave to the PC's will. If he becomes the PC's puppet, he'll eventually get banished from Mesa Verde and appear in the slums of Hoover Dam.

Morning to Evening: Up at the greenhouses, "helping". His float texts will be lots of curses at his clumsiness, but this will change if the PC cures him. If the PC makes him an addict, his floats will reflect that as well.

Night: Asleep in the dwellings.


Intermediate character. Male human. This guy shows up in Act 2, after the PC realizes he needs a docking clamp. If the Ciphers are still alive, then he'll be up near the condensors (Trig will direct the PC to him). If the Ciphers are dead, he'll be in the main part of the village, pissed and looking for revenge.



ST 5 PE 6 EN 6 CH 4 IN 6 AG 6 LU 5

Female human. Potential CNPC. Not a Cipher, just a visitor to Mesa Verde. She's a bounty hunter and she's trying to take Blackjack alive. Caesar's Legion is paying well for live super mutants, and she means to score big with this particular bounty. However, Blackjack is barricaded in a cave with a minigun (or so he claims), so Alexandra is trying to starve him out. If the player manages to get Blackjack to go back to the Big Empty, he'll still have to deal with Alexandra. He can compensate her with money, or promise bigger money if she tags along as a CNPC.

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