Screenshot: Kotaku (Fallout 76)

There’s a place in the Western part of Fallout 76’s Appalachia where the cargo drones like to gather. If you stand outside the Mothman Museum you can see them just overhead, hovering in the sky overtop an unreachable portion of the map. Sometimes it’s just a handful; other times it can be over a dozen, circling ominously. It might be a weird glitch, or it could be a clue to some deeper conspiracy afoot in 22nd-century West Virginia. In a game like Fallout 76 it’s hard to tell, which is part of the allure, especially for secret-hunting players.

Fallout 76 feels empty, but that emptiness has proven fertile ground to speculate about in-game mysteries. As one player put it on the game’s subreddit, Fallout 76 has a story but not a plot. While players’ actions constitute a series of events in which stuff happens, there’s no clear narrative thread that ties it all together into something meaningful. This has provided plenty of space for players to speculate about what mysteries exist in the game to be unraveled, and which are simply cute Easter eggs or unintentional glitches.

Not long after the game launched last week, some players reported that when they tried to get out of their Power Armor, it transformed them into weird Slender people. Fallout 76 got a massive patch today, but this particular bug apparently wasn’t given a fix, leading one player to say in a comment on the game’s subreddit, “I’ve been stuck in my power armor for 2 days. My player is a ghost. I can’t craft or repair anything. Help me.”

Other anomalies are less obviously glitches. One player recently encountered three separate high-level behemoths, all in the game’s Charleston Medical Center. Like a lot of stuff, it’s not clear whether it was a sort of hidden special event or a broken enemy spawn, nor how much that distinction even matters.

The game’s main quest line loosely revolves around following in the footsteps of Vault 76’s Overseer and finding out what’s become of her, all while trying the tame the surrounding wasteland. While some quests initiate distinct waypoint markers on the map, others are more mysterious, linked to a note found in a random house or a mysterious item picked up off a corpse. It’s not uncommon to find a key or holotape in the game before you have any idea what it’s actually for.

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This is what happened to a player who goes by Succowski on Reddit. While exploring the town of Sutton they found a locked box with a note nearby about a girl’s mom who had apparently been addicted to a special new type of Nuka-Cola. They went onto explore the Nuka-Cola factory looking for further clues but came up short, so they enlisted the help of other players on the subreddit to try to uncover what they thought might be a completely new Nuka-Cola product. Found notes and discovered keys were all dead ends. The thread grew into people sharing other stories having mysterious keys with no idea what they belonged to, the tantalizing promise of some unknown treasure that could be hidden anywhere almost being its own kind of reward.

Then there’s the case of the mysterious buttons. People found them in outhouses scattered across the map during the beta. They would glow different colors and make Morse code noises. People tried to decode them, hoping to stumble upon a big secret. Like the hatch from Lost, the buttons seemed like a mystery people might spend weeks or months to unravel—and like the hatch from Lost, it proved to be a bust. It turns out the outhouses with buttons in them were just hidden passages through which people leaving the game’s missile silos after launching a nuke would exit.

While some of the game’s more bizarre monsters aren’t too difficult to find, each has a legendary variant that can be harder to track down.
Screenshot: Bethesda (Fallout 76)

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One part of the game players are hopeful will yield some truly shocking findings is its bestiary. The game is full of cryptids, mythical monsters believed to roam the countryside but who are hard to track down. Mothman is the most notorious of them. Players had previously speculated about its appearance in the game back when Fallout 76 was announced, and their prediction turned out to be true, with numerous sightings throughout the game when the right conditions occur.

The creepy ways players unintentionally stumble across these beings is one of Fallout 76’s special virtues. “A bit down the road the chimes go louder and suddenly to my right I see a pair of glowing red eyes, its him... just watching me,” wrote one player about the first time they encountered Mothman while alone at night wandering around outside Charleston.

They continued:

I never stood in place in fear before but at this moment I did. I couldn’t afford to be attacked right now as I’m carrying way too much and I wouldn’t have the AP for it so I carefully made my way around the mothman, the whole time his eyes fixed on me, no matter how far away I was. So I get to the station and sell some extra stuff and the chimes are still playing, I peak out the door and sure enough he was still there, watching from a distance.

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There are lots of other cryptids in the game, including the Grafton monster—a pale, headless looking ape that can be found up north—as well as Wendigos, emaciated humanoids that would look at home in The Witcher 3.

Their mysterious presence and the excitement around potentially discovering new ones has led some players to focus solely on being “cryptozoologists,” compiling in-game clues with one another about where and how to find them. Fallout 76 doesn’t have familial dramas or dense character relationships to navigate, but the openness of its world has opened up room for other intrigues. For now, it’s still too early to know how many of them will pan out, or if most of the small fan theories traded on forums and in game will prove to be duds.