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Fallout 3: Tenpenny Tower

By Shamus
on Thursday Dec 18, 2008
Filed under:
Game Reviews


So a few people have complained that the quests in Fallout 3 are shallow or nonsensical. Other people really dig them. Two common responses are:

  1. The quests in Fallout 3 are stupid compared to the earlier Fallout games.
  2. The quests in Fallout 3 are so much better than in Oblivion.

Let’s look at one of these quests.

Allow me to set the stage:


Ghouls are humans that have been exposed to high levels of radiation, and their skin has taken on the texture of dried, sun-bleached fruit. The game continually alludes to the prejudice that ghouls are subjected to. Some people are ghoul-haters, and ghouls have a hard time making it in the world because they are so shunned by humans. The radio occasionally has public service announcements that “ghouls are people too”, which seems to be clear to everyone except the ghouls themselves. They call non-ghouls “humans” or “smoothskins”. It seems that if anyone is selling the notion that ghouls aren’t humans, it’s the ghouls themselves. I know if I lost an eye, I wouldn’t say, “What do you want, human?” to every two-eyed person who spoke to me.

Making things more complicated is the fact that some ghouls really are monsters. Some ghouls are feral, and attack non-ghouls on sight. The problem is that the game never explains what makes normal, human ghouls into feral ghouls. I don’t expect the game to take the time to clearly define ghoul physiology. In fact, it would be compelling if different people had different opinions on where feral ghouls come from and you just had to decide for yourself who was telling the truth. But the game never brings it up. You can’t ask anybody.

Look, if some guy refused to deal with an honest African-American because he was afraid the guy would suddenly transform into a drug-dealing gang-banger, then we would all agree that the guy was a prejudiced lunatic. But Fallout 3 seems to be trying to equate ghoul-hating with modern day racism, and it doesn’t fit. As presented, it’s entirely possible that normal ghouls could turn feral at some point. We don’t know. Furthermore, Ghouls have been bathed in radiation and apparently retain a pretty good charge. Reasonable humans will want to avoid living with them for that reason alone.

Tenpenny Tower

Tenpenny Tower is a high-rise building in the middle of the wasteland, and is the nicest place in the game. Everyone else in the game resents the residents of Tenpenny because they’re all “rich”.

But what does that mean? Nobody in this game produces anything. Unlike in previous Fallout games, there are no farmers who eke out a miserable existence from the scorched earth. You can travel the entire wasteland in the game and not see a single farm, or garden, or anything else. (They have some cows, but it’s not clear what the cows eat.) Everyone just meanders about all day. People go to the bar at the end of the day and spend their money on booze, but the game never explains where they get their money, where their food comes from, or what they do for a living. (Or where the booze comes from, given the shortage of stills and raw materials.)

What makes the people of Tennpenny Towers “rich”? Their nice clothes? Their clean building? In that case, it’s pretty hard to feel angry at them. The rich people aren’t benefiting from ill-gotten gains from raiding, or slaves, or from cheating others. They’re just doing well. They do just as much work as everyone else in the world. (Zero.)

One the other side of the map, there is nothing wrong with the supposedly not-rich Rivet City as a place to live. They just need to sweep the floor and give the place a fresh coat of paint. Nicer clothes are plentiful and cheap – way cheaper than the guns everyone is toting around – so it’s not clear why they don’t forgo a single night of booze and use the money to replace their rags with some decent clothing.

Again, fine – the game doesn’t have to explain the economy of the game world, and it would be fine to hand-wave the whole thing, except that the game then turns around and expects us to care about this silly class envy / class warfare nonsense, and expects us to hate those eeevil rich people of Tenpenny Towers for… what? Washing their clothes? Sweeping the floor?

It’s a classic pitfall of roleplaying worlds: Don’t introduce more depth than your setting can sustain.

The Quest

The game presents you with the following scenario:

Roy Phillips is a ghoul who wants to live in Tenpenny Towers. He’s got the money to pay for a place, but they won’t deal with him because they’re a bunch of ghoul-haters. Roy vows revenge and storms off.

Note that nobody else in the game can buy a place in Tenpenny, either. And if you kill Roy he doesn’t have any vast riches. So he’s really mad that they won’t sell him an apartment which isn’t for sale and which he doesn’t know about for money he doesn’t have.

When you go into Tenpenny Towers, you find they really do talk about ghouls as if all ghouls were feral ghouls. (Then again, perhaps Roy’s aggressive nature is evidence that he is starting to turn feral.) They really do sound like a bunch of bigots, although in the grand scheme of things they’re still nicer than a lot of the supposedly “nice” people in the wasteland that are always threatening to blow your head off over trivialities.

Worried about Roy and his threats, they commission you to kill him.

Roy lives in some subway tunnels near Tenpenny. He’s protected by an army of feral ghouls (it’s not clear how he controls them, if at all, but they recognize him as fellow ghoul and leave him alone.

He plans to storm Tenpenny, kill the residents, and take over. You have three choices:

  1. Help Roy take over Tenpenny by opening an underground access door from the inside, thus allowing him to circumvent the fortifications around the building. This is clearly wrong. Hating people simply for being rich isn’t any better than hating people for being ghouls. Aiding in the murder of an entire building full of civilians is flat-out wrong, even if they are jerks.
  2. Return to Tenpenny and (if you’ve got the speech skill and charisma) convince them to mend their ghoul-hating ways and let Roy in. This is clearly wrong. Ghoul-hatred aside, Roy is threatening to murder his way in. This is not someone you want as a neighbor. Who knows what demands he might make once inside? This might be an okay choice for a nice ghoul, but letting a brute like Roy into Tenpenny would not improve people’s perception of ghouls, and would probably do more harm than good for ghoul kind in the long run.
  3. Kill Roy and all his followers. I wasn’t happy about having to choose this one. It would be much better to talk some sense into this guy rather than just blow him away, but that game won’t let you even attempt it. However, assuming Roy is set on attacking and taking over Tenpenny, then this seems like the least of the three evils from which we can choose. Actually, the game should let you just kill Roy, and leave his (two) followers alone. They wouldn’t do anything violent on their own. But the quest is set to trigger on the death of all three, logic be damned.
  4. Okay, you could also just walk away and leave the quest unfinished, which is actually the most righteous of the choices offered. The problem here is that the most sensible courses of action simply aren’t available.

It should be noted that Roy’s hideout is actually not bad by wasteland standards. It’s clean and safe (for ghouls) and certainly better than the shacks of rusty corrugated metal that many people live in. Roy is actually pretty rich himself compared to a lot of people.

The one thing you can’t choose to do – and the thing which I think makes the most sense – is to talk Roy into some other course of action. He has a decent place to live, but it’s apparently not good enough for him, and he’s willing to murder people to get better. Roy is the problem here, and the solution should focus on him. The game would make much more sense if it also let you attempt one of the following:

  1. Help Roy realize that his current place is actually pretty good.
  2. Tell Roy about the ghoul city, where he would be welcomed and which is very nearly as nice as Tenpenny. (I think it even uses the same scenery components. They just need a few more lights and a broom if they want to match the splendor of Tenpenny.) This is the most obvious solution. Roy would get to live in a fancy place. He’d be welcomed. They probably wouldn’t even charge him, meaning he could spend his heaps of non-existent money on something else. But the game will never let you mention Ghoul City, even if you’ve been there yourself and have friends there.
  3. Convince Roy to use whatever might he was going to use to knock over Tenpenny, and instead knock over a raider-infested hellhole in the wasteland. Use his caps to clean the place up and run it however he likes. This would make the world a better place all around, cut down on the number of safe havens from which raiders can operate, establish another safe haven for ghouls, and show the “ghoul-haters” that ghouls can do good.

I chose to defend the misguided people of Tenpenny and take out Roy, which was an evil act in the eyes of the game. The guy on the radio – the conscience of the game – even called me a “scumbag” and said I “butchered” ghouls. Apparently killing a man contemplating mass murder made me a… racist?

This isn’t just a badly written quest. This is reprehensible. According to the moral compass offered by the in-game karma system (and, one assumes, the game designers) being a rich bigot (where “rich” is simply a label the game hangs on characters without context, and “bigot” is a charge that may or may not be fair, based on how dangerous regular ghouls are to people) is worse than mass murder and theft. The people of Tenpenny weren’t oppressing Roy by taking anything from him. They were just refusing to do business with him. And since he’s clearly a bloodthirsty madman, they kind of have a point.

This is not the only quest that presumes to help us understand deep concepts like “racism is bad”. Elsewhere in the game is a den of very polite Vampires – humans that drink human blood to survive. They balk at being called “cannibals”. (Right, you’re not simple cannibals, you’re wasteful cannibals.) They seek “understanding”, from the player, despite the fact that their survival depends on a steady supply of victims to keep them alive. Once again the right/wrong karma arrow points sideways, and it’s wrong to kill them, but right to convince a nearby village to supply them with blood in exchange for being left alone. I guess it’s okay to hold a village hostage and enslave them if you’re very polite and claim to be misunderstood.

I guess if you just want to run around and shoot things then these quests are serviceable enough. But too often they’re trying to tackle grownup concepts like racism and class envy in their playschool-deep gameworld, and the result is laughable.

Comments (167)

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  1. Martin says:

    This is kind of embarrassing to admit but when I discovered Moira sounded just like Sarah Palin, I changed my mind and accepted the quest to nuke Megatown.

  2. Shamus says:

    Martin: And the hilarious thing is that she’s the only one to survive. :)

  3. Josh says:

    Thank you, Shamus, for your excelent points. Now I can definitely get a feel of the bad writing in this game.

  4. Zwebbie says:

    Maybe I’ve just played Deus Ex and Vampire: the Masquerade – Bloodlines too often, but I fail to see the point of morality quests in the first place if the designer determines what’s good or bad. Isn’t determining which is good or bad pretty much the point of such quests? It’s like a game of dropping in the forest where you have to find your way out, only you have a navigation system. As long as you know where you want to go in the end, you can’t go wrong… Except for quests like this one, which is just the navigation system lying to you. Either way, I prefer finding my own way out, thank you.

    That said, even if there were no stupid Karma system, I don’t quite agree with your suggestions for extra options. This is the Wasteland. I’d imagine being a knight in shining armour is a luxury that nobody – especially not a lone, young Vault Dweller – can afford, with the shortage of food, safety, water, ammo and what-not. Convincing Roy to go somewhere else and live happily ever after is the obvious good option. So you’d just look at what kind of character you’re playing and act on that… that’s hardly a difficult decision, is it? I say Fallout would be an ideal game to throw good/evil morality out the window. If it isn’t that easy in our world, so how could it possibly work in a post-apocalyptic one?

  5. Cuthalion says:

    If this were a fantasy game, I think the best way to handle morality, alignment, and different peoples’ perceptions of morality would be to show the player’s favor with various deities and/or factions rather than assigning universal good/evil points.

    This would serve the function of unlocking good/evil quests (“Banthulhu, God of Bludgeoning, likes you! Here’s a quest that involves being violent and mean!”) while avoiding situations like this, where the designers are so focused on one aspect of the decision (the racism) that they miss the rest of it that we notice and assign good/bad points incorrectly.

  6. acronix says:

    The problem with this quest is that there isn´t any GOOD choice, with the only “good” choice is being a moron and letting an inestable guy with mass murderer ideas get in the tower. There are clearly, as Shamus pointed out, a lot of outcomes the player should, at the very least, be able to try. If it was a “go and kill this guy because I pay you” then it would be OK if the good choice was not accepting the quest. But this is not, so there´s no excuse to not put any other good choices except for the Lawful-Stupid one.

    And if you say “It´s a great quest! It doesn´t have a right or wrong answer, unlike a lot of others!” let me tell you that it is so, not because it´s well written, but because the writers were lazy and wanted the player to see their prejudiced morals, and thus not letting him/her get a more “moral ending”.

    In fact, why the heck can´t you convince Roy to go to Underworld? Or to stay right there? Why not an option to “lie” to him and tell him that Tenpenny´s tower is crap? I wouldn´t be this mad at the quest if they had let the player AT LEAST try those possibilities.
    Also, I think killing Roy and his friends, altrough it is an evil act, I admit, it´s far a more reliable solution than letting an homicidal maniac in the tower, or than killing a whole tower full of people. Walking out and letting him alone and not complete the quest is a tricky option: even if Roy can´t get inside the tower, he may be able to ambush and murder those of the residents that dare to go out (I guess they don´t go out never, but who knows)or even kill the merchant caravans that supply it (if we consider that THAT is the way the tower sustains itself). So it is not good neither, it´s just a neutral option.

    The cannibals quest is a quest made on the same piece of paper: to spit the player the morals of the developers (or the monkey writers, who knows?).
    Even if the cannibals are aparently “good” natured, not wanting to eat people, they still drink their blood, and they are still harassing people to get it. In fact, were the heck do they get the blood if not by killing people? Even their leader tells you that blood packs are scarce, so they surely are NOT getting it from them. Of course, the game NEVER implies that they kill people, because they want us to buy their “they are good!” statement.
    These “vampires” are just “cannibals” that went “good”, but they obviously still NEED to kill people, or enslave them (with the help of our Wasteland Saing Player Character). Instead of raiding a town, why don´t they go in search of raiders? Because it´s harder to kill a bunch of well armed raiders than harrasing a bunch of peasants. So…they are still good…right?

    Edit: another point, I always tought, by fallout 1 and 2 standards, that Karma was the way people saw you (if good-like or bad-like). It so, it would make sense that killing Tenpenny is a good thing (suppousing that we accept people hate rich people just for being rich), but then it doesn´t make sense that killing the cannibals gives you bad karma AND makes the TOWN OF AREFU go HOSTILE against you after that (let´s remember that THEY were the ones asking you to deal with them…). Karma in this game is not a “universal good system” not a “reputation” system. It´s messed up like sand castle after being kicked by a bully called Bethesda.

  7. Magnus says:

    If you completely remove the karma system, even within the restraints of the original quest, the outcomes are better. This would be because it would be the player rather than the game that determines whether you consider your actions good or evil. This would also require the removal of Three-Dog, which would be a good idea generally based on what I’ve read about him.

  8. =Dan says:

    I haven’t played through the Tenpenny Tower quest but I have to say two things:

    1) The writing is typical of the game (anyone gone through the Lovecraftian quest? It has no real conclusion).

    2) I thought Tenpenny Tower was Enclave controlled? Isn’t that where you watch the bomb explode?

  9. Ciennas says:

    I dunno. I’ve had this issue as well, and I first encountered it with fable, during the prologue.

    The set up was simple: Either stand still and watch these crates a farm hand was hired to look after for a minute, or smash em all up. this second option was presented by a little brat of a child, who had the nerve to call me a chicken for not joining in pointless vandalism. I figured a punch in the face might convince him to leave me alone, and rethink his life.

    And the game had the nerve to ping my karma meter for it, then lecture me with the local sheriff. yeesh.

    No. You know what brings real karma and character building? You don’t use a karma meter.

    In Morrowind, one of my god level characters discovered the tomb of a legendary hero. He had a nice axe, and soul gems that had discharged from eons of disuse. So I took the axe, and the soul gems as well.

    But then I felt guilty for it. I was raiding a tomb. of an actual hero. I ran back downstairs and gave it back, along with five grand in gold and replacing a few of the soul gems as well.

    That’s how you make a world with realism. You can have characters react to your presence, fine. But the meter should be invisible to the player, and not affect gameplay on a global scale.

    (If I am evil in one town, the entire world should not know of it, immediately upon performing an evil action. there should at least be a slight time delay, especially in medieval settings. Same with the good actions I perform, unless something happens like I was brought in with someone wel known in that town for one alignment or the other.)

    Haven’t played Fallout three though. Maybe the mod scene makes up for it Shamus. There’s probably a population rebalancer mod specifically designed for the vampire quest.

  10. MintSkittle says:

    Lovecraftian quest? Which one is that?

  11. JB says:

    Isn wrote:
    No – can't fault them for not letting ROY in. But can fault them for not letting ANY ghouls in.

    See, it's the generalisation that makes it bigoted.
    I don’t agree with you for two reasons:

    1. If 9 out of 10 ghouls are nice guys who will not kill you, you do not start letting them in. Not because of bigotry towards 9 out of 10, but because it’s risky to let anyone in. Soner or later you let the wrong ghoul in. What you call generalisations is simple risk calculation.

    2. I don’t agree that they are obliged to share their home with the less fortunate. Of course, when you are successful, it is a good thing to help the less fortunate. But there is a big difference from helping that to say that they should just share their home with anyone who might benefit from it.

    After all, not many people are letting random homeless people share their house in real life either.

  12. Zaghadka says:

    @62 Nalano

    Fine. If “liberal bias” is a stereotype, and therefore, I would presume, an unfair assessment, then let’s try something a little more accurate: “unwitting propaganda.”

    Most of the attitudes you’ll see regarding rich people being “penny pinchers,” the very stereotypes being espoused by the aptly named “Tenpenny Tower,” have their roots in Great Depression era media and entertainment. It’s as ingrained in our culture as Henry Potter in “It’s A Wonderful Life.” It’s simple propaganda.

    The rich people are corrupted meanies. They’re also control freak cripples running the world from a wheelchair, like the “Big Lebowski.” At least that movie made fun of it as a tired old trope. Just remember that its a common trope, and that means that it’s considerably more than just a “stereotype.”

    The folks who wrote Fallout 3 are just regurgitating a common (and unfortunate) stereotype that is silly to most serious writers. Even, as you note, liberal ones.

    I wish they’d spend more money on serious writers, and less on Liam Neeson. Writing talent is what is needed to address Shamus’ criticism of the game, and it can be gotten cheaply, if not easily.

  13. Dave says:

    So this is the answer for those who want to actually be good.

    “A strange [quest]. The only winning move is not to play.”


    Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

  14. Martin says:

    @Shamus: Ahh. I haven’t actually got that far yet. I actually suck at this game, partly because the draw distance my card can handle is shorter than the range of pistols, so I spend a lot of time getting sniped by Raiders I can’t even see.

    New card for xmas.

  15. Namfoodle says:

    I think acronix has it right that the karma system in FO1 & FO2 was meant to be more of a reputation than a perfect moral compass. I think it worked alright in the first two games, but I still saw plenty of complaints from people about how the quests worked in those games.

    In particular, I saw a guy on a board who was incensed about how the Junktown quests in FO1 were set up. The short version is that town wants the crooks dead, but you can’t shoot first. You have to gather evidence without starting any fights so that the bad guys are forced to start the fight. If you do shoot first, the town’s guards will side with the crooks and start shooting at you. Some people just can’t wrap their heads around that one.

    It sounds like things drifted a bit in FO3. Clearly, the writers feel that being a rich biggot and “putting on airs” in a post-apocalyptic world is the biggest sin. And despite some of the residents of Tenpenny being cool, guilt be association taints them all and Roy is free to kill them if he feels like it.

    I like LintMan’s solution, but I’m not sure it was part of the design.

  16. Wade says:

    I’m glad someone brought up the ridiculousness of the Tenpenny quest.

    I went about it in a kind of backwards way. I got into the tower and Sandman’ed every human in the place. The guards and other residence were never the wiser. This was actually the part that bothered me the most. I guess the people never questioned why the clothing store was closed that day and the guards assumed all those bleeding corpses laying in bed were just asleep?

    Anyway, from there I went up to the top of the tower, blew off Tenpenny’s head and killed every guard on the way out. Mind, that it did this for fun, rather than for any greater moral gains.

    I figured I might as well cash in on the quest, since I killed everyone anyway, so I went and talked to Roy. He was still gung-ho on raiding Tenpenny tower. Despite that fact the place was a barren husk of a building. The game wouldn’t let me tell him that the place was already clean and ready to go. Hell, I could have opened the front door for him and waved him through.

    So I run off and do the little side job of opening the basement and all that mess, and they completely trash the tower. The lights are out, the statues are broken, and place is a mess. Their house in the sewers was nicer than what they turned this place into. Also, all the people I killed 10 minutes prior are now re-dead and scattered all over. I suppose that could be attributed to ghouls dragging corpses around, but still.

    My reward? A pat on the back and a “Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.” And a couple moral points, which are useless since I’m playing evil to start with.

    My real reward? Blowing away Roy and his little creep friends after shafting me for doing him that pretty big favour. The least he could have done was offer me a room in his precious tower.

    I guess it’s a no humans allowed tower.


  17. Veylon says:

    I think Ciennas has it right. What’s considered right or wrong or good or evil isn’t global, especially specific acts. If you shoot Tenpenny, sure, Roy and his goons might like you. Maybe some anti-rich people will shrug and say he had it coming. The populace of Megaton, if they knew of his plot, would certainly breathe a sigh of relief. But other people would say you’re a murderer and want nothing to do with you. Others, who live a long ways off, might just not care.

    Different groups and people want different things and should judge not only on some universal scale, but on their own beliefs and interests. An ambiguous game like Fallout should respect that.

  18. Derek K. says:

    “You're the wasteland's reaver.”

    Damn skippy, I am!

    I’ll definitely recommend most of you folks download the “no karma” mods out there. They turn off the visibility of the moral compass, and you’ll never know about it!

    There’s also a Tenpenny mod that just removes the Karma entirely (and reduces the Karma gain from giving people the free water you get).

  19. Martin says:

    eh. I don’t think I wanna play this game anymore. Frankly, I didn’t like it much but I kept trudging through, aimlessly and overly weak. I’d rather play the computer version of Car Wars called Autoduel on my Apple 2c than continue with this graphically great but junk game.

    In fact, I’m going to go try get Tie Fighter running on my Vista64 PC.

  20. Jim says:

    Ugh, I hate the Tennypenny Tower quest, every “solution” leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I actually ended up restoring to a (much) earlier save and just avoided even starting it.

    However I really liked Blood Ties. I didn’t buy the whole “we’re not cannibals” answer given by Vance, but admittedly I basically ignored it once they were open to the idea of using blood packs to feed.

    The solution of The Family protecting Arefu and in return getting blood donations from the town seemed reasonable and I happily accepted it as a “good” (in the honorable/karmic sense) solution.

    Conversely I didn’t care for Replicated Man. As I once again didn’t really care for any of the provided solutions. I did find one I could tolerate at least but I wasn’t happy about it.

  21. acronix says:

    Fallout 1 and 2 had “regional” karma, thus the reactions you mention of the people were more exact. If someone far, far away cared about something you did, it was only him who knew/cared, not the whole frigging world. Fallout 3 is just a very global karma, and joining that with the moral compass Bethesda introduced, it fails horribly.

  22. And to think I was considering buying an Xbox to play this.

  23. Felblood says:

    So Shamus, would the quest have been less one-dimensional, if there had been a path to let Roy’s friends inside and leave Roy himself outside?

    From your description, this seems like the optimal solution, both for you and the writer, had he not be too lazy/short-on-time to think of it himself.

    It deprives Roy of manpower, making him less dangerous to society, while uplifting those portions of the downtrodden, which you describe as “harmless.”

    This seems like the solution you really wanted. It looks at the same issues without the childish simplification, that assumes that all victims are not themselves evil, but it still allows the player to have a positive impact on the world, if he wants to.

    Seems to me that the writer probably would have liked it better as well. Since this is clearly a paper-cutout morality play, I doubt he intended to teach the moral, “Rethinking your racist views will just get you murdered by the lesser races.” Something closer to, “Judge people based on who they are, not what they are,” seems more in line with the pithy morals they taught at my kindergarten.

  24. Spoiler …

    I like that:

    – Then I immediately went back upstairs and offed Tenpenny.
    – Then off to Roy Phillips telling him they can move in.

    I returned to the tower a number of times afterwards, through the completion of the game, and the residents (both humans and ghouls) continued to live happily together. So the only person who dies is Tenpenny, who I was going to kill anyway.

    So there is an ok solution, all in all.

  25. Andrew says:

    I remember reading a review of the end of the book “The Chrysalids” that pointed out the same problem you’re having with the Ghoul quest: Rather than work out some sort of peaceful, diplomatic resolution to the racial tensions, they just evangelized one side, had them kill the other, then gave a long speech attempting to justify the slaughter.

  26. Talrogsmash says:

    This whole things reminds me of an old Civ II glitch, in where, if anyone in the world for any reason used nuclear weapons, everyone declared war on YOU, even if you weren’t the guy who even researched the Manhattan Project!

    but then, that was a glitch, that they tried to fix, and this seems like it was done on purpose.

    Maybe they are just trying to point out that just because the “media” (the in game radio and your karma score) tell you to do something, that doesn’t make it right.

  27. Nabeshin says:

    “This whole things reminds me of an old Civ II glitch, in where, if anyone in the world for any reason used nuclear weapons, everyone declared war on YOU, even if you weren't the guy who even researched the Manhattan Project!”

    Actually, Alpha Centauri does the same thing. So either they made the same mistake twice, or they did it on purpose.

  28. Nalano says:

    @76 Zaghadka

    “The secret of a great success for which you are at a loss to account is a crime that has never been found out, because it was properly executed,” or to paraphrase, “behind every great fortune lies a great crime.”

    It’s a trope; a well-trodden one. It cloys not because it’s unreasonable, but because it’s inadequately explicated in this particular instance. If you never actually explain how the economy works, how can you expect people to take wealth seriously?

  29. B.J. says:

    One thing I think people need to realize is the scope of Fallout 3 is actually quite small. I mean we are talking about an area that would fit into a 3×3 map grid from the first two games.

    Another is that I think the whole idea of there being rich people living in the wasteland is meant to be a joke. It’s an example of Bethesda’s (poor) attempt at ‘zany’ fallout humor.

    Overall I enjoyed the game very much, but I agree completely that the tenpenny tower quests are crud, and I’m glad I avoided that place the first time through the game.

  30. Avilan the Grey says:

    #28, QRTER

    I agree; the quest did not bug me as much as it did others, because when you think about it… If you do the “good” thing, it really is the Good thing, As Far As You Know at the time. Your Karma get’s modified accordingly. It makes sense. Karma judges you for being kind, and doing good. That Roy betrays your trust is not your fault, and Karma knows that.
    (Do I sound a lot like Earl right now?)

  31. Isn says:

    @ JB (75)

    Rebuttal to your rebuttal …

    I’ll take point 2 first: You express a widely-held view regarding charity – i.e. it’s all well and good as long as it doesn’t inconvenience one too greatly. This is not a criticism, it’s exceedingly rare to find people who are capable of rising above this (and I’m not one of them). However, my point is that I don’t think the charitable instinct (or otherwise) is relevant in a discussion about bigotry.

    More interesting is point 1. I would point out at that in the world of Fallout 3, or at least that much of the world so far revealed to us, the ghouls are actually a very great deal LESS likely to attack on sight than the average human. The majority population of the wasteland are … Raiders. So, if the Tenpenny residents followed this reasoning alone they should be MORE likely to accept Roy (than a human).

    In the end though, it’s none of these reasons that the residents use. It’s just that they don’t like ghouls *in general*. They’re not willing to accept the evidence – that ghouls though often surly, are not actually all that dangerous. Not letting Roy *could* have been justified on the grounds that Roy is clearly unstable, but that is not what happens.

    Now, if the residents had said “we won’t accept ANYONE, no matter who they are” I would be arguing the other side.

  32. Viktor says:

    #94, Avilan;

    The question is whether or not convincing everyone to allow Roy in, when you know he is clearly unstable, and that everyone not letting him in is actually justified because he’s contemplating killing them all if he doesn’t get what he wants, is actually good. I’d say it isn’t, and further, that his subsequent insane slaughter of everyone in the building falls on the player’s shoulders for enabling him to get inside the defenses. A persecution complex does not make Roy an innocent to be helped.

  33. Avilan the Grey says:

    #96 Victor,
    I know. My (Good) character bit the bullet and decided to kill him, because I try to actually role-play (not just go after “best Karma, Best XP”. I felt that she felt that he was too unstable.

  34. I defeated Fallout3 the first time being mostly good. I mean, I only killed who I had to. Seems I died at the end just to defeat it and that kinda sucked. What happened to the mysterious savior living out his last days in the wilderness and walking out into the sunset? Crappy ending if you tell me.

    Ok, so this 2nd time playing I decided to be evil. Pure evil.. the killing children (if that was possible), shooting cows, eating corpses, killing people as they sleep, and collecting ears off goodies like they are souls.

    So last night I killed everyone in Megaton (except the kids, why can’t you kill kids?), looted it clean, and went to Tenpenny Tower and blew it up….which was kinda cool. Very pretty with a nice view. There’s other instances I wish I had such a good view, but I digress. I then killed Tenpenny and Burke… there shall not be more evil than me. Now I have my private suite in the tower.

    Today.. or should I say ‘tonight’ (its easier to kill people sleeping at night time when they are actually in bed…dozing off at their cash register doesn’t work well and the waiting time is boring) when I’ll kill off the Tenpenny people and then open the door to let in the ferals, who I will kill too because lets face it… I don’t want ferals living in my building. Its like a house with rats.

    Speaking of rats, the cockroaches really bother me. Like seriously… ick. My skin crawls just entering a building infested with those.

    On a last note, playing evil has been super fun.. I really recommend it. Only problem is running out of ammo before you get the find more ammo perk.

    Be sure to download some mods, like the 5k weight limit is nice… no more running to town to sell stuff when you are too heavy.

    The new textures for some of the creatures are pretty good too, I mean the bahemeth(sp) now looks like a real mutant monster instead of a super orc.

    Mods can be found on file planet. Worth picking and choosing.

    Edit: Oh, I forgot to say I noticed some people do have jobs. Like hunters who you can buy food off of, contract killers, who tend to come after your’s truely, and soldiers who are paid for protection services. There is a farm on the map in the upper right hand corner area but I haven’t visited it yet so don’t know if its working or not. I guess its hard to grow things with radiated water. Lots of reptiles and mole rat things to eat, if you don’t mind receiving radiation from them. Its interesting that when you turn cannibal you receive no radiation from eating people. Just food for thought.

    As for the ‘vampires’ well, I’ll kill them too so don’t worry. Problem solved.

  35. LemmingLord says:

    Just wait until the quest where releasing Chinese commandos to brutally murder everyone is a good action, where as stabbing them counts as a bad action.

  36. Dan Hemmens says:

    Replying to a really old post (#42 if you’re counting):

    “Shamus: My nuanced comment was regarding blood ties. You need to find a practical solution for both groups not a heroicly good one.”

    Problem is, that’s not “nuanced” it is, in fact, the classic happy-clappy “get everybody to work together” solution. You get the people to realize that actually, there was no reason for them to be fighting at all, and they can all be friends.

    A *nuanced* solution would be one in which (a) neither side was good or evil but (b) they could, never the less, not peacefully co-exist.

    There’s a really nice little Neverwinter Nights module (of all things) which opens with a quest like this. There’s humans and goblins both laying claim to the same land, they can’t share it because they have fundamentally different needs, so the only way it can end is for one side to wipe out the other. Both sides are fighting for survival, both have an absolute *right* to fight for survival, but one can only survive at the expense of the other. *That’s* morally interesting.

  37. Avilan the Grey says:

    #54 Joe: “@Dave #8 I completely agree. In the beginning of the game I was always running low on ammo, armor, food, water. It seemed like the game was really post apocalyptic. As soon as I got to level 10, suddenly I was the richest man in the world and nothing was a challenge. Supermutants stopped being scary, and their behemoths were just an excuse to use the missile launcher.”

    I hate to bring this up, but this reminds me of… all RPGS I ever played, really (Diablo doesn’t count). Hit a certain lvl and you get equipment that turns you into god. You rain death on your enemies no matter if it’s by rocket launcher, magic missiles, or two-handed sword.

    #55 Naleno: Just nitpicking: After you solve the Vampire quest there are new Brahmin in the pasture by Arefu.

  38. Nalano says:

    @101 Avilan

    This happens at the END of the game, not the middle. RPGs are supposed to ratchet up the challenge commensurate with the power of the player. Hell, all games are supposed to challenge the player on all stages. Sure, you’re wielding a zweihander with disturbing efficiency and can bank trickshots with your dual pistols with laughable ease, but they’re also sending more guys after you and putting you in more difficult situations.

    Fallout 3 does do SOME modicum of NPC leveling – the raiders that were carrying pistols will carry assault rifles after you level – but they’re still just as easy to kill!

    As for the Arefu brahmin magically being replaced, surely you see that handwave for just what it was? How can we take the economy seriously if there is no, well, scarcity?

  39. Avilan the Grey says:

    #102 Nalano

    The problem here is that this is a large semi-open RPG with a lvl cap. This means that even if you have not really bothered with the main quest yet, you can reach a lvl where you can breeze through the rest of the game.

    As for the economics: I know. But I don’t consider the Arefu brahmin a handwave when it comes to the actual town of Arefu. As an example of the economy of the region yes, but I was just nitpicking on the comment that all their cows are dead.

    The economy does not makes sense, and I am sure FO1 and FO2 are better… But how much does make sense in other RPGs? It’s the setting’s fault we worry about this. Nobody cares how the 200 goblins survive in a cave in a D&D based cRPG.

  40. Steely says:

    You know, on the subject of those “eeevil” rich people, I think that Bethesda missed the importance of resource centralization in the Wasteland. Think about it – this is a situation in which we are supposed to rebuild humanity. How is that going to happen if there are no concentration points of resources (ie. “wealth”)? If all you have is a bunch of people scattered around with roughly the same impoverished state, no one will have enough to support any large infrastructure projects.

    And honestly, that goes into something that was really missing from a setting which was supposed to be 200 years after the war. There should have been some infrastructure by then. It would have been really interesting to see some basic manufacturing going on or maybe some quests which involved you helping the people of the Wasteland to build up a better economy.

  41. crispian chealuks says:

    I went for the “good” and as I found out later naive approach. I felt cheated and disgusted when Roy killed all the humans, I felt the need to cleanse the Tower with Righteous Flame and so I did. It’s a shame FO3 does not have a critical death animation for the flamer like the laser or plasma weapons, the sensation would have been near orgasmic. I know I’m sick, I’m currently building a mod to imprison npcs for me to play with, once it is finished I will leave a very nice spot for Roy, Burke, Tenpenny, so on my next play I won’t have to worry about this quest.

    P.S. Hmm… help people build an economy and maybe working trade routes, sounds like a DLC to me.

    P.P.S. Seriously I would have gladly paid $100 for a game whose setting is as rich and well thought of and as big as morrowind. At least in that game the smallest of settlements have a kwama nest to live on.

  42. Zaghadka says:

    @92 Nalano

    Man, you have got a “solid brass Balzac.” ;)

    That’s it exactly. If people think that wealth is only generated dishonestly, soon all wealthy people will become dishonest, because social behavior tends to meet societal expectations.


  43. Kotenku says:

    The morally just solution to the Tenpenny Tower Quest is to NOT BLOW UP MEGATON.

    And I find that the Karma system is going to refer more to how everybody else sees you, not an objective Heaven/hell spectrum.

  44. MuonDecay says:

    Shamus, the game actually does explicitly explain the difference that makes a feral ghoul.

    Essentially: Brain damage, radiation damage to their brains makes them go feral. It’s painfully simple and perhaps not too appealing an explanation but it makes enough sense to appease my curiosity.

    There are a couple conversations I’ve had in the game that explained that. One of them, I think, is actually in the very quest line you’re talking about here.

  45. Slyboots says:

    LemmingLord : Just wait until the quest where releasing Chinese commandos to brutally murder everyone is a good action, where as stabbing them counts as a bad action.


    Im assuming this is the simulator quest you are talking about, in the games defense this is a good action, the people inside cant ever leave the environment (The doctor mentions this as he cant leave either without instantly dying)

    So in a choice were you either leave them to their fate at the hands of the doctor or “release” them..

    Like many choices in the game, it falls in that horrible gray area with no clear cut “good” solution.

  46. guy says:

    It strikes me that the best solution semi-possible is for you to seal the ways roy knows about that would let him in without an invitation, then maybe try talking the locals into letting the other ghouls in.

    It also strikes me that it would have been nice if you could blow up somewhere clearly bad with the megaton nuke. Like, say, lead a commando raid to free the slaves from the slave-trade center, then blow it up. Or maybe moved it somewhere else where it could be securely held for such a use without threatening civilian lives. I mean, it’s basically capable of getting rid of any target you can get it to, and disarming it is clearly more difficult than much of anyone can manage, so if you need to dispose of a raider group too powerful to simply walk in and shoot, it’s a good thing to have.

    Yes, it might get misused. Then again, so might the weapons-grade plutonium in the bomb, so you haven’t really disposed of it unless you lock the materials in a lead-lined vault and pour concrete on it. For that matter, it’s likely that other unexploded bombs exist and having one is a secure area instead of having to worry that the next crazy may find an ancient weapon design document and the radioactive materials that you left laying around is good. If it never gets used, that’s actually good in many ways.

    1. Nowhere got nuked flat
    2. It never needed to be used, which says good things about the overall political situation
    3. the good guys still have a fully armed and operational weapon to convince everyone else that pushing them too far is a very bad idea.

    Strap explosives to it and set them to go off over 30 seconds, and you can get the good ending for the basic quest when the right detonator is pushed.

  47. Andrew says:

    Man, I want to fire up the original Fallout now. Reading this made me think of the Junktown quest where following the labels and helping The Sherrif (who’s played by McGyver, so how could he not be a good guy?) kill The Gangster gets you the bad ending for that town.

  48. 10Kan says:

    What bugs me the most about the economy is that there’s only a few people in the game world (the doctors in most towns and the chemists in Rivet City) who are producing RadAway. RadAway should be to FO3 what water was to FO1; a commodity so vital and limited that the people who control its supply (or who can cure radiation by other means; again, doctors) are inordinately powerful. A non-ghoul-human eating a regular diet of the local cuisine would sicken and die from radiation poisoning in less than a year, even faster if they didn’t have access to clean water. The doctors and chemists should be the linchpin of their communities, not just another one of the services offered in town.

    I know that Moira mixes up a radiation-flushing potion for you after one of the guide quests, but that’s treated as if it’s the first time she’s ever made it. Of course, keeping with the tight, tight plot and fully realized world, it’s never mentioned again.

  49. Fineldar says:

    I think they’re trying to tackle these grown-up issues because the first two did it.

    Or maybe these quests are just really good imitations of Fallout 2. They’re capturing the spirit and theme of Broken Hills: good design and issues, in the words of one of the designers, by dumb jokes. Good show, well done indeed.

  50. Gustavo Ganso says:

    I completed this mission with the massacre of residents, I spoke with them and ended up getting sick of his convictions. Decided to stop them. That hero that everyone talks about not convinced me, he is more a colonialist with his “faithful” slave to the side.

    I think we should leave aside notions of right and wrong, in a reality where there are no more governments, organizations and societies, the concept of right and wrong, which is very concerning, nor should be raised.

    Besides, karma is much more than a law on what action is a good and bad to be done. Refers to the consequences of those actions.

  51. DeeK says:

    The beggar outside Tenpenny survives.

  52. Johan says:

    Heh, at first I thought it was someone else too, but I laughed more than usual at the jokes, especially the first panel, which seemed down right Penny-Arcade-esque (at least their TV Reporter guy they had).

  53. David says:

    Damn that quest is one of the only ones that really hit me hard. When i saw the blood trail i freaked but figured that he was an evil git so mabye Roy will do better.
    When i saw that they had killed all the residents i freaked out. Dearing Dashwood, that lady at the diner, the communist guy! I felt bad enough telling the shop owners to leave and die in the wastes.
    In the end i figured it was right to help Tenpenny then blow him away giving the tower saftey but destroying its ambition (though i think tenpenny is more crazy than evil and killing Burke might be kinder and leave the aged guy to him ambitions).
    Though this quest is the only one where you see that your actions and intentions however good end in death ( aint completed the game yet but from what i gather there is no epilogue) i would have loved to see endings where its says if you helped Tenpenny he created a large empire but it was prejudice or if you kill just burke or just tenpenny and the communist guy takes over.
    So many missed chances wish i had a pc good enough to run it so that patches could fix it all.

  54. Johan says:

    Oops, that post of mine was meant for the stolen pixels thing.

    Oh well

  55. Susie says:

    I think it was partly a matter of perspective – who ever wrote the quest didn’t really think it all the way through from every angle (or any angle). My D&D game last week was very similar. The DM described the situation (the party was eradicating a nest of orcs who had been attacking the local villages) and we were carrying it out. When it became obvious that we were going to win, we all kept fighting – wasn’t that why we were there? A young orc will grow up to be menace – might as well kill it now. Well, the DM starts freaking out, and considers that we were being EVIL. And, here’s why – the DM knew some things about these orcs that we did not know, and that they were not unprovoked – etc. Anyway, my point – we were penalized because we were seeing the game from a different perspective than the person who created the scenario. They have all these extra details in their head that we either do not know because they didn’t tell us, or because we didn’t look deep enough. Personally, I am in the ‘do the best that you know’ camp, and shouldn’t be penalized for doing what looks right in your eyes.

    As far as my game goes … I’m pretty tired of the DM punishing us (took away another player’s familiar in punishment) for breaking his moral code – so I’m going to adopt a strict code of conduct in game as a result of this horrifying experience of killing all those innocent orcs. He’s also a Roll-player, so I’m thinking of making a vow of non-violence. :-D

  56. Jack the Quick says:


    Fallout 3 is arguably my greatest disappointment in the fourteen years I have been playing video-games.

    The main quest is the definition of an idiot-plot. There are three main forces at work in the game, the Enclave, your father, and the Brotherhood of Steel. None of these groups have a believable motivation for their actions in the game, actions for which they are willing to both kill and die for.

    In order for the farcical plot to take place every single character in the game has to be a complete idiot.

    The best part, by far, is the very end.

    Anyone not interested in spoilers feel free to skip the rest of this post.


    You are given the choice to save your life or the life of Paladin Lyons from lethal radiation. Lyons is a character who (if you don't go out of your way to do otherwise) you will have interacted with precisely once in the completion of the main quest.

    The ridiculous part is of course that you don't care about Lyons, and even if you did, radiation is only lethal to =SOME= of the characters in the Fallout Universe.

    When I was finished the game I was being followed around by Fawkes, the super-mutant, a character whose species has been previously established as being entirely immune to radiation. Despite having this character nearby, for whom radiation is nothing more then a pleasant tickle, the choice remains between you and Paladin Lyons.

    … which is ridiculous.

    The choice is the same if you have the robot or ghoul companion, both of which are also immune to radiation.

    In addition, as a character you are probably carrying multiple means of reducing or mitigating radiation that you have gathered from around the wasteland, and this particular brand of “lethal” radiation has been shown to be not-so-very-lethal-at-all because the Colonel, an unmodified human wearing a leather jacket, survives it (though the game doesn't address this unusual turn of events at all).

    They set up an insane situation, and then compounded the insanity by not taking into account the companions they had built into the game.

    The opportunities, they has squandered them…

    I really liked this game until I started figuring out what was going on, and then it filled me with an ever-growing pool of incandescent rage.


  57. guy says:

    Radiation is pretty random in it’s effects, a guy in a leather jacket living through it is far from impossible.

  58. RC says:

    I don’t agree. The attempts at real world examples and lessons are not laughable. Their honest and truthful to life. There is an old saying…”The pathway to hell is built upon good intentions”

    The TenPenny quest ends harshly, but its truthful to life. I like it because it does not try to sugarcoat it, and say they all lived happily ever after. That is simply not how it works in this life. Its pure Chaos Theory. Every single action has a consequence, and out of that consequence comes another action, than another consequence. The TenPenny quest may leave a bad taste in your mouth no matter what, but thats how life truly is. And I would prefer unbridled realism than feel good bull. And the same goes for every other quest in the game.

  59. Paradoxrifts says:

    The simplest way of killing the ghouls for no loss in karma is to immediately travel to Warrington Station, once you find Roy make sure his companions have a clear line of sight when you engage him in conversation.

    Choose the insulting dialogue option, then righteously put them down when they turn hostile. Don’t take anything from the area that has it’s text highlighted as red, as the game will class that as theft. 3-Dog will still chew you out over the radio, but most people switch his endlessly repeating crap off halfway through the game anyway.

  60. mat says:

    u all talk to much its a game dont think to deep

  61. Hamlet says:

    We got a Zombie inside the comments!
    Everybody drop to the floor and stay calm!
    *takes out the gun and aims for mat’s head*

  62. Hamlet says:

    [quote]Also, I think killing Roy and his friends, altrough it is an evil act, I admit, it´s far a more reliable solution than letting an homicidal maniac in the tower, or than killing a whole tower full of people.[/quote]

    Okay. So we got ourselves a description of Roy. But what is Tenpenny then? St. Martin himself? He shoots people from his balcony with a sniper rifle and calls that a “Wasteland Safari”, he pays killers to liquidate YOU and engages Mr. Burke to wipe out an entire city, which I would say is bigger than his tower. By ignoring those facts, you demonize the ghoul and sanctify the _other_ (not: the real, but the OTHER) homicidal maniac.

    And somehow no one here mentions Gob – the friendly Ghoul of Megaton – if you don’t treat him like an asshole (like everyone else), he becomes your friend.

    What do we see? The poor people of Megaton (or let’s say relatively poor people, at least they got a walled-up city to live in) show exactly the same prejudices as the rich snobs do. Surprise-surprise! Bigotry everywhere. Murder everywhere, wasteland everywhere.

    The only right choice is to get on a big boat and sail to a country, furthest away from that radiating ground-zero-America…

  63. yeahhh says:

    yeah some quest just make me feel quesy in my stomach
    same thing goes for the “oasis mantree one”
    you can either end his suffering, or help regrow the wasteland…and get pimpin gear

    but either way, maybe the karma system is a bit effed up because in this apocolyptic wasteland, just like in real life, there are just NO good solutions present, you just have to pick the best off…which in this case is letting ghouls kill tenpenny…and just pretend that the rest of the residents eat babies or something…then you can sleep at night =]

  64. SteelBrotherhood says:

    It seems that nobody is raising the issue of private property rights. The tower is owned by Tenpenny and leased to a number of tenants. They are not obligated to admit anybody and everybody. Even if you don’t like their reasoning, or the criteria they apply, they have the right to draw a line and say “no entry!” to whoever they do not want entering their property.

    Roy Phillips is nothing more than an immature thug who cannot get over the fact that somebody doesn’t want to let him play ball on their court, so instead of going off to play a different game or find his own place to frolic, decides that it would be best to commit mass murder. If somebody is capable of perpetrating a massacre because they were excluded from living in an exclusive community, they are already far from an ideal resident!

    Anyway, in the end it goes back to private property! Tenpenny can do with his tower as he pleases! Private property rights trump the rights of people to avoid being offended or excluded. If I don’t want you playing in my sand-box, you can go elsewhere and find your own sand-box, but you cannot play in mine.

    • Anthony says:

      There is a concept in modern society that it is wrong to deny services to certain minorities just because of their race. It is damaging to the fabric of society to do this, makes the minorities in question feel like they aren’t really part of our nation, and society’s interest in quashing such abominable behavior outways any private property rights.

      • WJS says:

        There is also a concept that inviting someone into your house is not the same as a commercial service, and anti-discrimination laws do not obligate racists to invite minorities round for afternoon tea.

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