Mod of the Week: Afterschool Special, for Fallout: New Vegas
School can be a drag, especially when a bunch of atomic bombs have turned your classmates into flesh-eating ghouls. This week, however, class is back in session in the Afterschool Special mod for Fallout: New Vegas, which lets you take an abandoned, decaying schoolhouse and transform it into an awesome high-tech base of operations, with a lab, a crafting center, a health station, and best of all, the CIMS: an awesome computer that can sort, organize, and store all of your worldly possessions at the touch of a button.
(Please note, the picture above of me decapitating a Fiend's attack dog with a laser rifle doesn't specifically have anything to do with the mod. It's just more exciting to look at than a picture of a schoolhouse.)
Afterschool Special (originally released a while back but recently updated with some new tweaks and features) takes place in Springvale, which is based on an actual town in Nevada, and focuses on Springvale School, which is based on an actual school in Springvale, Nevada. The in-game school isn't much to look at: just another rotting, dilapidated building in a world full of them.
That is, until you come along. Poke around in the rubble until you find a scribbled journal entry, and you'll discover that a fellow named Paul Edgecomb had some plans to renovate the school, but the guy he hired has since gone missing. Paul lives nearby in a small repair shop with his Ghoul buddy Dean, and offers you the chance to take over the renovations and inhabit the school yourself. It's also worth noting that the custom voice work done on Paul is incredibly well done: it feels authentic and fits perfectly into the game.
This isn't simply a matter of Paul handing over the keys to the school: you've actually got to roll up your sleeves and get to work. First, you’ll need to empty out the junk that litters the school floor: busted wood, desks, chairs, and other odds and ends. Being something of a jerk, I decided to dump it all in my neighbor's yard, and was a little disappointed when the desks and chairs, instead of falling into a big messy pile, just hung motionless in the air for some reason. Then I realized that a bunch of desks floating in your yard would probably be even more annoying then a pile of them. That made me feel better.
Once the place is cleared out, it's time to mop the floors. Two notes about mopping the floors. First, you'll be happy to know you don't actually have to mop the floors, you just have to press a button and the mod tells you that you've mopped the floors. Second, I am actually disappointed that I didn't get to literally mop the floors. Something about mopping the floor in Fallout, I dunno, it just seemed like it might be fun. How often do you get to mop in a video game? Not terribly often.
The next step is to gather some of the goodies for your new pad, like toolboxes, lockers, and other items. They will become part of the centerpiece of the restored school, the CIMS, or Computer Inventory Management System (more on this in a bit). Paul is nice enough to give you some clues as to where to look for the items you'll need, and you'll also wind up doing some random scavenging and visiting traders to fill your order. Or, you might just root through people's houses and hope they don't get too upset.
Once the interior of the school is in good shape, you'll need to restore the building's electricity to power the lights and computer system. The mod is actually quite detailed in this respect, and I wouldn't be surprised if the mod’s creator was an actual electrician. In additional to gathering some electrical components and batteries, you'll need to find a spare solar panel, which means another trip out into the world to hunt down the gear you need.
You think this place looks high-tech? Well, wait until you see my setup:
Once you've gotten the power running, you can finally use the new CIMS, and discover what a great time-saving device it is. Typically, when my inventory is full, I'll waddle over to some container in my house and start dropping things into it, being careful not to store things I want to keep on me at all times. This isn't difficult or anything, but it tends to take a while, requiring a lot of scrolling and clicking and thinking, and then retrieving items out of the box, which is stuffed with a bunch of everything, also takes more thinking.
With the CIMS, you just walk up to the computer and ask it to sort any category you want. If I want to unload all my crafting supplies, I just tell the computer, and boop, all my crafting supplies are neatly stored in one location. Do I have a bunch of extra sets of armor or clothing? Beep. Same deal. Do I have 28 different guns I'd like to keep but not carry with me? Do I want to figure out which to sell and which to save, but I don't want to do it right this second? Click.
When I want to do some crafting or peruse weapons or whatever, it's just a matter of opening the correct labeled storage spot. Couldn't be easier. Once you’ve got your CIMS set up, you can also purchase other improvements for the school: a healing station, a crafting oven, a science lab, and a workbench. You don’t have to stop there: further quests can lead you to repair the old, busted fence outside and add a garden and picnic area, essentially turning the schoolhouse into a schoolhome.
As you can tell, this isn't a massive, dramatic, or even particularly dangerous mod (unless you run into some random enemies while scouring the world for parts). It is, however, a great add-on, good for those who have run out of things to do, or providing something enjoyable to work on while taking a break from other, more strenuous quests.
The end result is a comfy and extremely useful base of operations in Springvale, with the inventory management system, an extraordinarily comfy bed that gives you the well-rested perk after just an hour’s sleep, and a custom map marker for easy travel. There’s even a switch on the outside of the building that, when flipped, toggles between the school's vanilla version and modded version. And, like I said, the voice work is surprisingly great.
Installation: Download the latest version here. Drop the contents in your FNV data folder and make sure the mod is checked when you begin. Then head to the schoolhouse and find the note in the rubble. The only issue I noticed was the CIMS occasionally couldn't sort items that were added by other mods.