You can join a caravan as a guard and earn caps and xp by protecting it from wasteland threats. There is a Caravan coordinator in Hub that knows where certain caravans go, where they are now and where they are currently headed. To join a caravan as a guard, talk with the Caravan Master NPC (guy with Combat Armor and 250 hp) when he is in town. You can join a caravan at level 1 already, but most of these get pretty rough so it is advised to be more fully leveled first. Bring plenty of ammo, a backup weapon, combat drugs, and Super Stimpaks.
Note: It is also advised to avoid bringing your Companion followers on caravans, or at least to avoid arming them with burst weapons since they are a bit reckless in combat.
Caravans are a popular way to level up, because the amount of rewarded XP scales up as you level. So the higher level you are, the more XP you get when you successfully guard a caravan to its intended destination. The rewards are also scaled based on the journey (they range from 1000 to 4000 caps).
While employed guarding a caravan, you can encounter exclusive Caravan Encounters which are tougher than ordinary encounters.
If you fail and your caravan job status gets broken, you can pay 2500 caps to reset it.
Note: Be aware that some of the encounters will have semi-hostile NPCs. These are the ones that yell at players if they see any weapons armed in Slot 1. You have only a few moments to put your weapon away (or move it to Slot 2) before they go hostile and attack you. When this happens, do not expect your caravan NPCs to help you.
- Crimson Caravan: Hub<->Shady Sands<->Broken Hills<->Vault City<->New Reno
- Far Go Traders: Hub<->San Francisco<->Redding<->Modoc<->Vault City<->New Reno
- Van Graffs: Klamath<->Den<->Redding
- Stockman's Association: Redding<->New Reno<->Shady Sands<->Junktown<->Hub
- Goods'n'Go: Gecko<->Broken Hills<->New Reno<->Shady Sands
- Hang Transportation: Hub<->New Adytum<->San Francisco
- Gun Runners: Gun Runners<->Hub<->Shady Sands
To join a caravan, go to Hub or one of the other towns where caravans go. Talk with one of the Caravan Leaders (guys standing there sometimes in Combat Armor) to see where they are going next, and join his caravan run. If you're at Hub and you don't see a Caravan leader there, check with the Caravan Master to get information about where the caravans are now, and where they're headed. To get paid, you can only join a caravan between runs, in a town.
Once you join a caravan, you'll be in a caravan party led by an NPC. You'll have to wait a short while for the caravan to depart, during which time other players can also join it. The fewer players join your caravan, the more NPC guards will be assigned to it when it departs, but their number is capped at 4 plus the leader. If enough player characters join the caravan, no NPC guards will be assigned to it other than the leader.
Caravans get into encounters, most of which require fighting hostiles. The fight must end before the caravan can continue, and the NPC leader must survive the fight. If he dies, guarding the caravan fails and you cannot get paid for that run. It's wise to carry some Super Stimpaks along to keep him healed. The caravan NPCs do not carry any stims, but they do all have unlimited ammo. They sometimes suffer injuries that diminish their ability to fight effectively, so it's ideal to have some decent Doctor skill too.
Once a caravan fight ends well, the NPC leader will announce they'll be on their way again soon. You have a few moments to reload, heal up, doctor someone, do some looting, etc before the caravan party is back on the worldmap heading again to its intended destination.