We now have a better idea of how Fallout 76's new PvP mode, which Bethesda has been teasing for a while (opens in new tab) , will work. It's called survival mode, and it's separate from the main game (which is now being called 'adventure mode'). A beta of survival mode is planned for March, though Bethesda says it may need more time to develop it, so that's not set in stone.
Here's how it will work when it does arrive: When you login to play Fallout 76, you'll be given a choice between adventure mode (the original game) or the survival mode beta. "The same quests, events, and story that you’re used to in Adventure mode will all remain available in Survival," Bethesda's post reads (opens in new tab), "but you’ll have to navigate them under the ever-looming threat of hostile dwellers who may be hiding just around the corner."
You can use an existing character for survival mode or create a new one. If you use an existing character, your progress with carry over between the two modes. "This means that if you fire off all your ammo, level up, complete a quest, spend Caps, or find a fancy new weapon in Survival, this will also be reflected on that character in Adventure."
In survival mode, all other players except teammates or public event partners are flagged as hostile, so PvP will not require the low-damage 'invitation' shot to instigate a fight. "You can attack other players without restriction from the first shot you line up, meaning every encounter you have with a stranger could turn deadly in the blink of an eye." The level scaling system from the main game will remain, which gives low-level players a helping hand when fighting higher-level characters.
What happens when you die in PvP combat hasn't been completely decided, and the post says the systems and rules will be experimented with after the survival mode is released in beta. "Currently, players who die in Survival mode will be unable to use the seek revenge respawn option against their aggressors and can only choose to respawn at their C.A.M.P. or Vault 76. We’re also planning to award you double the Caps when you kill another player, and they may drop their Aid or other items in addition to their Junk." Survival mode will also feature a leaderboard so you can see how well (or poorly) you stack up against other players.
This sounds pretty good to me. Back in November I wrote up some changes I'd like to see in Fallout 76 (opens in new tab), and separate PvP servers (and hardcore survival servers) were among them. It doesn't sound quite hardcore, where you might lose actual guns and armor when you go down in a PvP fight, but losing more caps and extra items at least adds some more stakes, and not having to initiate a fight with a low-impact 'slap' attack means you'll be able to stalk and ambush players, which is great fun in the main game when you're bounty hunting.
We'll be getting more details about the survival mode beta as we get closer to March. In the meantime, another patch for Fallout 76 is still planned for the end of January.