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While traveling to Vault 15 which is due east from Vault 13, you should see another yet-unexplored green highlighted circle on the World Map. Click within the circle when you see it (even if you pass it up), and then again on the triangle which appears when you've stopped, and you'll find yourself in Shady Sands. Why now? Well, the rope you need for Vault 15 is here and will save you a trip back and forth, and from potentially dangerous random encounters this early in the game.
Shady Sands is an area you'll see a lot of in the early game and almost none of during the middle and late game, but that is up to you of course. Your main goal here is to get a bit of experience, some antidotes for use early in the game, and to get the rope for the Vault 15 area, next.
Shady Sands Areas:
Town Hall: where you enter the first time
Garden: to the southeast of Town Hall
Radscorpion Caves: reached by talking to Seth at the town entrance
Before you enter town, unarm yourself. The easiest way is to switch from the active weapon slot to an empty inactive one via the interface button. Talk to Seth, the town guard standing near the entrance archway, and learn about both the Radscorpion problem and about the Raiders. Sooner or later his daughter Tandi will be kidnapped by them. If he doesn't mention her, do all the quests here and ask about it after you've traveled to the Radscorpion Caves and back. Do not yet ask to be taken to the Radscorpion Caves until you talk with Ian nearby and recruit him for help... the battles are easier in the beginning with a small party and best of all, they take NO experience from you, unlike in D&D.
Search all the bookshelves and containers in both sections of town for useful items including ammo, books and the needed rope (except in Razlo's house in the southwest part of the Town Hall area--if he gives you a warning, then stop). You'll often find that characters in the game may get annoyed at you picking through their stuff. They'll usually offer one or two warnings and then attack on any subsequent pilfer attempts. Remember, using books like the First Aid and Outdoorsman books you'll find here in Shady Sands takes a few hours per reading, which wastes time... so if you're in a hurry, wait. However, as I said earlier, you shouldn't worry too much about time in general.
There are at least a couple ways to get the rope needed for Vault 15. One is free in the Garden section of town on a bookshelf. Seth can carry another if you want to barter for it... but I'd suggest picking up the free one.
Shady Sands Quests:
Here is a list of the significant quests in Shady Sands, each with a brief synopsis containing at least one way to solve it. The remaining ways, and possibly other minor quests I will leave up to you.
In the main Town Hall area, simply talk to Katrina who is at the archway entrance next to Seth. If your Intelligence is high enough, ask her about all of the topics and you'll be rewarded 250xp.
Gain a new Party Member, Ian:
On the Town Hall map, in the first building on the north eastern part of town, you'll see a man with a leather jacket. That's Ian. Talk to him and you'll be able to ask him to join your party for 100 caps. If your speech and intelligence is high enough, you can promise him a piece of the action and he'll join for free. You'll also receive 100xp for recruiting him. He's good with weapons of the Small Guns variety. Remember, if you want to "trade" with an NPC, or treat them as an extended inventory, Steal from them without fear of retribution. Ian will also reveal on your World Map the locations of Junktown and the Hub if you talk to him.
Help with Crop Rotation:
On the Garden map, southeast of the Town Hall, speak with the farmer walking through his crops. That's Curtis. If your science is 40% or higher, you should be able to go through the dialogue and tell him about "crop rotation." If not, an alternative way of completing it is to enter the "tell me about" dialog box and type in "crop rotation." You'll receive 500xp for completing this quest.
Eliminate the Radscorpion Threat:
On the Town Hall map, talk with Seth at the archway entrance. Ask him about the Radscorpions (preferably with Ian - see above) and then ask him to take you to the Radscorpion Cave. You'll be instantly transported there. It's a small cave map with nine radscorpions, each worth 110xp once defeated. If you have high agility, use the tactic of attacking once and using the rest of your action points to run away, and you'll have an easier time with them. Each one carries a fairly heavy Radscorpion tail, which you should carry as much as possible for Antidotes in Shady Sands... give the rest to Ian. Don't forget to check the bones and ground for other items.
There are at least two ways to complete this quest, but one with more experience. One is to simply kill all the radscorpions, as mentioned above. The other is to plant a stick of dynamite at the cave entrance. Examine the north wall near the cave entrance and you'll notice that it's not stable. If you stand next to the wall, enter your inventory, use the dynamite and set the timer (which does not count down on the inventory screen), and then drop it and run away... you'll be rewarded 1250xp if you've left all the scorpions alive. The way with the most xp is to kill all of the radscorpions, take the equipment and their tails along the way, and *then* go back to the entrance and blow up the cave for a little extra xp, assuming you have some dynamite. After killing all the radscorpions you'll get 500xp (plus what you got for each one). Return to Shady Sands via the exit to the cave, and you can talk to Seth about Tandi and the Raiders if you wish.
With the radscorpion tails you can pick up during the quest above, you can bring one back to Razlo the healer in the southwest house on the Town Hall map. Talk to him first about Radscorpions, and give him a tail if you have one for 250xp and a poison Antidote. You may then use the antidote on Jarvis in the next room to complete the next quest. For every radscorpion tail you bring him, he'll create an antidote for you... only during the day time.
Cure Jarvis of Poisoning:
Using one of the antidotes Razlo the healer gave you from the quest above, go into the back room in the same house, click on Jarvis and then use the Inventory icon on him. Select the antidote from your inventory and you'll receive 400xp.
Rescue Tandi from the Raiders:
On the Town Hall map, talk to Seth about the Raiders. If he doesn't tell you yet about Tandi, come back at another time (such as after doing the Radscorpion Caves in this area or Vault 15) and he'll put the Raiders on your map. When you've got the Tandi quest, you can talk with Razlo the healer, tell him about Tandi and he'll sympathetically give you 2 stimpaks. When you are ready, head on over to the Raider base a touch southeast of Shady Sands.
The Raiders will remain non-violent as long as you don't irritate or steal from them. Garl, in the central room in the house, is their leader. There are actually several ways to free Tandi but I'll mention a few of the most likely. One option is to barter for her release in dialogue with Garl, where you can then give him around 600 caps (or less if you have a good barter) and be on your way. Another is to challenge him to a fight during dialogue. He's fairly tough without good hand-to-hand skills and a low level character, but possible. Yet another is to fight the raiders for her. If you do this however, your xp reward will be less depending on how many you kill before her escape. This is also the most difficult route, as not only are they fairly tough at this stage of the game, they are likely to kill the prisoners during battle, including Tandi, so you might consider another alternative.