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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. Michael says:

    I agree..
    fallout’s sense of morality is totally out to lunch..
    still a great game though
    it’s not hard enough even on very hard difficulty
    but then again, I play metal gear solid on extreme difficulty
    so playing fallout 3 is walk in the park for me
    my advice, don’t be a pussy.. try not to use V.A.T.S. because it makes it too easy… and therefore less fun

  2. Tom says:

    I agree with the general evaluation of the particular quests mentioned, and also the remarks that there were too many “questless” dungeons; the questless vaults in particular were a colossal let down, each one filled with empty rooms and barely even a single plot item, just more regular powerups that I maxed out on long before, not even a single unique goodie (except perhaps the trivial bobbleheads), barely even a single moving or revealing survivor diary, of which I feel every vault should contain several (compared to the rest of the game, the visual effects and general execution of Vault 102 were also really amateurish) The writing howlers, such as the Lamplight Caverns, which are evidently constantly replenished with prepubescent children over the course of two centuries by some unknown force, given that everyone who gets old enough to reproduce is immediately booted out, not to mention the whole nonexistent economy thing, also stuck in my craw a bit (I wondered, for a while, if the idea was that the population was decimated to such a degree that all the canned and dry foods in the various shops around the capital actually could have lasted long enough to sustain everyone for two centuries, but I just don’t think that’s remotely plausible – I’m sure they just never bothered to actually think out a plausible post-apocalyptic economy, another wasted opportunity). I was willing to ignore the latter, barely, but the former was just crazy.

    However, I think it’s an extreme reaction to denounce the entire game because a handful of its many, many quests sucked (yes, even the second half of the main quest; I feel the whole rest of the game experience compensates even for that, on balance), and that, being built on a finite budget by a finite staff in a finite timeframe, failed to fully include every last one of the infinite number of complex things we’d have liked to see in it (vehicles would have been nice, though, and surely not impossible – STALKER was supposed to have them and actually did for a while in beta, and that was one of the biggest letdowns of that particular game for me – one should also remember that, while not every quest in Fallout 3 was great, just about every quest in STALKER sucked huge amounts of the ass.). The second half of the main quest and the ending were, indeed, the second biggest letdown of the whole game for me. The biggest, I feel, (and I’m probably in a minority of one, here) is that I didn’t get to do anything at all with the damn Virgo rocket. I mean, I went to the science museum, (and even though I barely roleplay my characters at all, beyond maintaining character consistency, the vault exhibit actually had me imagining myself getting flashbacks to the escape in chapter one – that was a nice bit of design work, although I wish they could have done just a little more with it), I find a perfectly preserved nuclear moon rocket, the museum displays actually tell me how to start its engines, and so I naturally think to myself “HELL, YES!” and spend the next twenty minutes trying to satisfy my chaos-loving impish side by hurling laser beams and pulse grenades at it, hoping to get the damn thing to ignite and blast its way out through the roof in a spectacle of wanton destruction, only for the crushing realisation to sink in that it’s just a static damn setpiece. That, I feel, was a wasted opportunity to rival even that of the main ending.

  3. Rodrigo says:

    not so random note:

    feral ghouls ARE mentioned on the radio as ghouls that have take TOO much radiation and thusly gone mad.

    so its not like any ghouls become them. just ghouls that live in nuclear reactors or such.

  4. […] Wait, what? Best Writing? Are you kidding me? […]

  5. B says:

    I think the only solution is to either have a player mod or patch which has ten penny killed by roy and the rest of the humans allowed to live or even better have a quest update through a radio message by 3 dog or a messenger from ten penny tower that asks you to come mediate the situation again so that they can get a new leader or maybe a couple new leaders in place of ten penny. Also I think the misunderstanding roy talked about was that ten penny tried to shoot him or one of the other ghouls from the tower with a sniper rifle.

  6. Sigma says:

    The thing that confuses me is that Bethsoft CAN write good stories, in The Pitt DLC;
    You are called to the Pitt by a man named Werhner (sp?) who states that the city is controlled by a corrupt ruler name Ashur who slaves people in the Pitt and makes them SAD and ANGRY. You go in, eventually meet the ruler himself, and he reveals he was planning to (with the aid of his steel mills) make The Pitt into a rich, non-raider town and set his slaves free, and that he was only doing it because his baby daughter is immune to radiation and they are trying to find a “cure” from her. You can kill Wernher for Ashur, who promises to release the slaves, or kill Ashur for Wernher, who takes the baby, but it is implied he is less gentle to her. However, he does free the slaves instantly (or at least, the “near future” which in Fallout 3 never comes). I’m not very good at describing, but in game it is a tough choice. There’s no evil dictator or noble rebel trying to free his hometown, just two people with different ways of making people’s life better at the cost of the others ways.

  7. People have already highlighted that doing the “right” choice in this quest leads to Roy killing everyone. Like many others, my character (since despite cheating to the gills I was playing a character concept) then killed Roy. I knew it’d happen going in, but in-character my character WOULD have tried this approach at peace. Roy is vicious, racist and angry, but the owner of Tenpenny had no problem with him coming in. All that was needed for a peaceful approach was to talk to some people. A few bigots are in the tower, but many of those people are quite friendly and even likable. Even the Communist was very pleasant and polite. Then, in-character, my response upon seeing my plans go to waste would have been to imprison Roy or try to talk to him about making amends. Since neither are possible in context of the game, I killed him.

    I actually disagree with you, Shamus, about the moral choices: I thought that killing Roy would only be justifiable once it was clear he had no capacity whatsoever to embrace peace. My problem with the quest is the moral dissonance AFTERWARDS. The game may be trying to be ambiguous, giving you hard choices, but then it gives you a simple up-or-down moral compass. After you do the right thing… horrible things happen. Innocent people DON’T die if you do the evil thing. It was this tendency that led me to use “rewardkarma” in the console repeatedly. I’m not about to be judged by a video game. The worst part is that the game is VERY good about making your actions feel worthy: NPCs come up to you to hand you items if you’ve been good, thanking you for your good work.

    The Tranquility Lane simulation is similar. You can either torment people or kill them. Killing them is bittersweet at best: Yes, they’re no longer under this madman’s control, but if you just play along (and lose Karma), at least they’re still alive. But the BIG problem is that after you do that, you can’t kill him, negative Karma or not. He’s in an invincible pod, despite the fact that you have a miniature nuke on hand. Not only is this a way to deprive players of satisfaction, especially since there’s a terminal that governs his pod, but it’s also a way to limit MORAL decisions. I think that living in his simulated world is too good for him. Others disagree, finding his fate poignant. Great. Leave that choice to the player.

    Then there’s a lot of characterization problems in the dialogue. I found that either there were no options to be anything but mean, like when talking to Dukov’s ladies, or that there’s only a smarmy and an inexcusably mean choice. Even beyond that, though, it’s impossible to come across as anything besides either an abandoned kid or a total brat when it comes to your father (ably played by Liam Neeson). My character was totally in support of his dad and wanted to help him save the wasteland immediately.

    And then there’s just minor, weird things. So I can kill someone and gain Karma, but if I take their stuff afterwards, to distribute it back into the economy… that’s wrong?

    Steel: The problem is that they don’t want him to play ball because he’s black (or a ghoul). Further, you don’t FORCE them to accept him. You convince the owner. I’m not a huge fan of private property, but it’s moot because the most moral path I think there is (negotiating between the two factions and bringing peace) involved CONVINCING people to do something different. Some bigots move out. Boohoo. That having been said, there IS an argument to kill Roy. He’s clearly dangerous. The guy isn’t some innocent third party: He’s planning genocide unless you stop him! I could see someone saying, “You know, I have to stop you from murder” and not being a bad guy. Roy then tries to kill you, you lose Karma. Silly.

    Not to mention that, in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, the idea of private property is sketchy at best. Is private property what you can take? Then the raiders are good guys…

    @ those who argue that it’s silly to harp on this: The game is very fun. But it really breaks my immersion when the game’s moral compass goes totally haywire.

    I thought the Harold quest was handled beautifully. I was initially leaning towards killing him. But I decided to accelerate the growth, then talk to him. After all, his rights to die are legitimate, but the rights of the people who need him are also serious. Luckily, I convinced Harold that he had been selfish. He decided to give the people one more chance. It was a very beautiful ending, and I immediately thought, “Man, so THIS is a good quest”.

    @ Hamlet: That’s exactly why I pursued peace. No one involved was blameless or perfect: In fact, both sides had committed monstrous things. So, like lots of peace negotiations, we began by getting both sides to agree to a compromise. My only problem was the dissonance where you’re PUNISHED for doing the right thing…

  8. Sorry for the double post, edit closed off a minute early.

    @ those who thought the quest introduced moral complexity: Fine. In that case, get rid of the karma compass. If you’re going to have ambiguous morality, make the compass more sophisticated or just don’t have it. As it is, the vampires quest was a good example of what you could do. You could reason that the vampires need to be eliminated out of justice concerns, e.g. Shamus’ point about the hostage takers, or you could reason that peace in the wasteland is best. I thought it was a mutually beneficial arrangement that emerged from peace, and I thought the conflict between the two groups was due to misunderstanding, paranoia, fear, suspicion, etc. Resolving that was good.

    But the Roy quest… Ugh. See, the game isn’t telling me, ‘Even the downtrodden minority can have evil members’, because it already told me that with the feral ghouls, the glowing ones, and Roy’s incredibly douche behavior. I only pursued the path I did because I feel that peace is worth achieving: Both Roy and Tenpenny are reprehensible people, but the people of Tenpenny nor the ghouls in the corridors deserve to suffer or be discriminated against because of their leaders’ vile behavior. The game isn’t telling me that morality is ambiguous: I knew that, thanks. These Aesops are insulting.

    No, what the game is doing is pointing at you and laughing. Roy is clearly a violent guy. So when you bring him into the tower, do you

    a) Get him anger management?
    b) Create a grievance resolving or conflict resolving board so that Roy can have a better outlet?
    c) Bring in sentry bots or Protectrons to defend the Tower, including from its own residents?
    d) Put on a slave collar that’s linked to a trustworthy guard?
    e) Warn Roy that if he harms anyone in Tenpenny you’ll kill him?
    f) Tell Tenpenny to keep an eye on Roy but that the other ghouls aren’t so bad?
    g) Tell the other ghouls that Roy might turn on the humans and to be sure to attack him them?
    h) Force the ghouls to disarm, given their history of conflict?

    No. You can’t do any of those, or dozens of other options. Like with Shamus’ Fable review, the game isn’t smarter than you, it’s made it so that your only options are stupid ones.

    Moral ambiguity is great. Having well-intentioned decisions lead to bad consequences can be just fine. But a) I’m playing a game for an experience. In this case, I was playing the game to be heroic, after a villainous runthrough. This deprived me of that chance. So the game MAY, arguably, have been more sophisticated for it, but it was also less fun.

    b) If the game can’t SUPPORT that moral ambiguity, it shouldn’t have it. The fact that Roy was a dangerous powderkeg was obvious. In a pen and paper RPG, I’d have done at LEAST a, b, c, e, f and g from above. I might not have pursued h because it’d be unfair to have them disarm if other residents wouldn’t, and d is inappropriate. But within the game world, there were dozens of solutions that you could have created to prevent the events from happening. You can’t pursue them because the game, the GM, is lying to you and telling you that you just can’t do that, because.

    If your quests can’t support the moral ambiguity you’re looking for because reasonable approaches can’t be pursued, then scrap the ambiguity. Even without Roy killing the townspeople, there’s still plenty of controversy on these comments.

  9. Diegoheavens says:

    Tell me if this works. Do the peaceful resolution, when you tell roy and the others they begin to run across the tunnels and wasteland to Tenpenny Tower. In this, Kill Roy, let the others go into the tower, though you may take a karma hit, no ghoul infestation occurs and no angry residents attack right? Anyone tried this COA?

  10. […] as irrelevant to your overall progression whether you went the good or evil route. One quest chain in particular, the Roy Phillips/Tenpenny Tower quest, was such a glaring example of this irrelevancy that the […]

  11. Ninja Pirate says:

    I haven’t finished FO3 yet (I waited for the Game of the Year Ed to come out) but I love it so far. Although there are some very valid points on here, there are a few things I feel are unfair on the game.

    1) True, there are small problems with things like the economy and lack of choices. However, a game has to, at some point, fall into a script. I was annoyed at how to go through DC I had to take tunnels – I though “Hell, I could climb that rubble or go through that broken window in the real world” But then the problem with making a game as the real world is “- but if I cut myself on that piece of wire I am about 200 years away from a tetnus shot…” So yes, there are limitations, but I think that they are very well defined. It is a long way from things like Resident Evil, where I had to go through the zombie infested hospital because my Assualt Rifle packing, Rocket Lancher wielding, Sledgehamer holding, kinfe carrying heavy-booted character was stopped in his tracks by “a simple lock”.

    2) Things like the Tenpenny Quest add a touch of realism I like. I play a good character (currently, The Last Best Hope…) and I tried to solve the dispute peacefully. Now, Roy was a ba*tard, but I gave him a chance. So at the time I did the good thing. If I was there when the ‘argument’ happened, I would have shot Roy to save the citizens. This realism filters down throughout the game – like how a random shack will have empty crates. It’s annoying, but people have been scavenging for 2 centuries, so it makes sense.

    3) The levelling is not an issue for me. The best leveling to me was the godfather (at least my generation’s) of RPGs, Final Fantasy VII. You could, as with FO3, run at the main quest, die (a lot!), level up a little bit just to get over the hump and then die and repeat at the next step. Or, you could spend weeks of game time racking up EXP like nobodys business, hit level 99 and waltz through to the end and make Sepiroth cry like a little girl. This is what I want in a game! If I spend hours and hours leveling I expect my fights to boil down to the Vault 101 Tankasaurus vs Raider Jr and his trusty pointy stick (and I have the anti-pointy stick armour).

    4) The only inconsistency that bothered me was the Mgaton bomb. I thought that the bomb here was the one that was supposed to hit DC. If a nuclear warhead that size hit where it had on the map, the whole of DC up to Fort Banister, RoD and Tenpenny Tower would have been a smoking crater covered in glass. Yet if you blow it up you watch a still impressive, but relatively small, explosion. I am a scientist, though, so this stuff always bugs me. I wanted a deathseen where you go back to Moira to have your radiation healed only to be told you have severe acute lymphoma. Again, not nice, but real.

  12. Black Ort says:

    But the vampires’ “victims” don’t need to die, do they? They just need to give up some blood, like you would to a blood bank. Depending on how large of a supply the vampires needed, the village could easily pass around the duty of giving blood on a certain day with out causing any deaths, or even discomfort.

  13. The_Bear_Jew says:

    need I remind you that Tenpenny tried to BLOW UP MEGATON… that is a little more than just being a bigot

  14. Looney_Wanderer says:

    I read most of the comments here, and came to the conclusion that most people here have a problem in taking ex-post responsibility for their in-game actions.
    The future is unknown and karma is not awarded based on what will happen in future, but based on the intent of the present action.

    Let’s recapitulate:
    – Tenpenny is evil, Burke is evil.
    – Everyone in the tower wants to kill the ghouls (all residents want that if you talk to them)
    – The ghouls want to kill the residents

    That’s not just Roy who wants to kill the residents, they want to kill him & his ghouls as well for being a threat, but I don’t see how Roy is a threat as long as he stays in the metro…

    So you convince both sides to find a peaceful arrangement, believing they will live in peace together in the tower.
    This, in my opinion, qualifies for positive karma.
    At this point, you’ve also already killed Tenpenny for the “shoot them in the head” quest, or Roy will do it for you.

    We should add that the tower has plenty of HUMAN security guards, so the security situation is in favor of humans.

    And then, the ghouls kill the humans, and everyone here goes like “oh how shocking!”… without even knowing what happened, what triggered the ghouls to kill the residents?
    Does someone know?

    Real life too presents situations where all possible choices are crap upfront, and also situations where the solution that seemed the “right” one a priori reveals to be a bad one a posteriori.

    Consider this: a mad scientist designs a virus to kill all humans. He makes a mistake in his formulation and instead of killing, the virus heals cancer.
    Should the mad scientist get good karma as a reward?

    What’s truth:
    – truth that lies in the past is statistical
    – truth that lies in the future is probabilistic

  15. Zak says:

    It’s not even Racism, it’s situationism. they are still human, just radioactive and deformed.

  16. Max says:

    Hmm, your comment on one-eyed “humans” got me thinking. Perhaps these designers thought this way. Well, do we have a minority that has been treated second-class and now believes to be not the same as the others. Well, one could argue that blacks living in bad neighbourhoods exhibit this trait. They see others as Whiteys or some other derogatives remark, while it is perceived that we should never ever call them Blacks, but coloured people to diminish any kind of “difference”. I think this is part of the Ghoul-thingy in Fallout 3. Or I just think too much into it and give the writers too much credit when it comes to clever social analogies.

  17. blaarrr says:

    lol, soooo many comments are TLDR,
    trim it down, get to the point sons.

    but, like shamus said, i AM after all coming into a thread that has been for 2 years.


    and everyone here is retarded. :P

  18. Geoff says:

    The fact that you can’t confront Roy is ridiculous, he effectively betrayed you and you can’t even tut.

    Also on the economy point it’s a bit stupid that every single med box, ammo box, and whatever contains what it’s supposed to, after 200 years of people picking it over. I’m playing through for a second time and I have enough ammo to fight the next world war, with over 100 stimpaks it’s just ridiculous.

    Oh and syntax nazi – that was a spelling correction not grammar.

  19. shorty says:

    allright, like they wrote above if you let roy in he will start off by killing tenpenny and then kill all the rescidents in the building. This does definately not make roy any better than the biggots. usually I dont kill ghouls unless theyre feral in the game, but I killed roy after I found out that he had killed everyone in the building. After all I had persuaded most to think ghouls are okay and they wont harm the rest. This made me a bit upset, so the fact he broke a promise sort of and killed everyone in the building made me shoot him.

    • Anthony says:

      He’s actually still considered good by the karma system even after he kills everyone, and you get dinged for killing him. I just have to scratch my head at this, was it unfinished? Did the people who wrote that plotline really expect him mass murdering all the residents to be the final, satisfying conclusion to the plot?

  20. ChristPuncher says:

    Jesus tapdancing christ…clearly the author of this had stabbed his brain with a q-tip the morning of writing this. Get well soon, man…Get well soon..

  21. Bob Cat says:

    I disagree with your argument. Just as the time is scaled as a fraction of real time and the size of the game area is scaled down as compared to the real Washington DC, so to are the fine details of the citizens’ lives.

    For example, the game designers will often put in subtle clues as to the nature of the person’s occupation or background using the props that are available in the game engine – it doesn’t take a genius to read between the lines and imagine what real world subject they are hinting at.

    Thus, considering the fact that the game is a scaled representation, I think it’s fair that they don’t show every detail. The details they do show are more than enough to convey the message.

  22. […] doesn’t support the findings beyond what is presented. Shamus on Twenty-Sided provides a good example of this in Fallout 3. First, let us observe the “plausible baby steps” that lead the […]

  23. […] As a counterpoint, one can consider D. Riley’s discussion of “The Situation at Tenpenny Tower” in which he describes a quest where even the “good” solutions leave a bad taste in your mouth. Shamus Young extensively critiques the logic of this quest, the options available, and the game’s moral judgment of your choices in “Tenpenny Tower”. […]

  24. Opiate4208 says:

    i took at Roy in the station and the other 2 ghouls. I went to go back to the tower and for some odd reason the tower was taken over by ghouls. I decide to loot the place after killing the ghouls. I make 3 trips looting the place and on the 4th time back the power is back on. The place is not ramshacked. But no one is there. No ghouls. No residents. everything i looted is back (it let me keep what i looted already) but now its takeing my karma down as i loot. On my 3rd trip back looting the second time, i walk in and for some reason Roy’s dead body is laying in the doorway. How weird is this? anyone else have this problem or just me? So i didnt get my caps for takeing out roy. i just lost karma..I cant find the dead bodys of the residents in the basement either..

  25. Vi says:

    I don’t know whether this makes things better, worse, or neither, but a lot of people will consider you a monster in real life if you try to say, “I don’t have any negative feelings toward group X, I just think person Y is a nut who needs to be stopped, regardless of what groups they belong to.” That kind of sentiment just doesn’t compute for everyone. So, maybe it shouldn’t be entirely surprising that it doesn’t compute in this game’s karma system.

    • Roland says:

      I love this quest and could not agree more with this. Whether the intent, it was a great message on the pitfalls of class warfare as a concept. In the real world media will demonize you for defending yourself against hostile invaders. Those who make a great show of being on the right side of history rarely tend to be, and this quest is a window into experiences of the so-called “privileged” who find themselves on the wrong side of public opinion.

  26. Anthony says:

    I think you’re forgetting the part where the owner of Tenpenny tower sits on top of the tower and snipes and murders random ghouls and people for fun. And also where he plans and orders the nuclear destruction of an entire town just because it’s an eyesore for him. The residents of Tenpenny tower, by tolerating his presence, are complicit in all of this.

    • Garrett Carroll says:

      The entire quest falls on its head. Most Bethesda questlines and single quests do. Shamus has done a great job at point it all out for something of a laugh. Bethesda has never really delivered stellar quests or questlines.

  27. Garrett Carroll says:

    I’ll admit, for the most part I simply ran across the wasteland killing ghouls, raiders, tenpenny tower residents, and still blowing up Megaton (first), not even thinking of the consequences. Yet I typically never paid attention to the fallacies of the themes and quests within the game, probably because I was stupid and young at the time. This post on Tenpenny Tower, however, says it all.

  28. I chose option 4 and left the quest unfinished, because the other options were stupid.

  29. The Borderer says:

    The alignments are all over the place in the Bethesda Fallout games. Herbert Dashwood is neutral despite his supposedly heroic background, while Irving Cheng, who is planning a Maoist coup at Tenpenny Towers is considered to be good. There is also a slave bartender in Paradise Falls who is evil, with no reason for this given.

    Maybe the unofficial patch fixes these problems.

  30. GeorgeMonet says:

    Ghouls AREN’T human. They are ghouls. They cannot breed and eventually every single ghoul will turn into a monster that tries to eat people. It is in every humans best interest to kill every ghoul. While some ghouls might be decent for right now, eventually they will all be human eating monsters. And since this happens at random, it really isn’t worth the huge risk. Plus with no farms and very little water, humans and ghouls are competing for the same resources. This again means that humans would be better off killing all the ghouls.

    Killing Roy isn’t a lesser of 3 evils, it is the morally good choice. Roy is evil, he is a ghoul that plans on murdering real people. Thus you are absolutely in the right to kill him and anyone that allies with such an evil ghoul, especially if they are also ghouls. Roy has ZERO right to live in Tenpenny Tower. He doesn’t own the Tower, he doesn’t have a contract with Tenpenny. He is just a selfish evil ghoul. He should not be allowed into Tenpenny Tower for any reason.

    Let’s look at the quest this way. You live in a large mansion. Your neighbor lives in a good sized house. He comes up to you and asks you to let him live in your mansion while he secretly is planning on killing you once you let him into the mansion. Is there anything wrong with you refusing to let him live in your mansion? The mansion that you own and he doesn’t?

    As for the “Vampires”, they could not get by just by eating human blood. The thing about blood is that it is mostly just water. The largest animals that eat blood, bats, must drink so much blood every night to survive that they have evolved to pee out the water from the blood they are drinking while they are drinking. Smaller animals that eat blood have to inflate their bodies by many times their normal size in order to get enough blood to sustain themselves.

  31. GeorgeMonet says:

    I can’t believe that ANYONE here could truly uphold the view that Roy should be let into Tenpenny Tower just because he wants to be let in. Just because Roy wants something doesn’t mean he should get it. After all if you follow that logic then you have a huge contradiction because the people of Tenpenny Tower want Roy to stay out of Tenpenny Tower and if people should get what they want simply because they want it then you’d also have to honor the people of Tenpenny Tower. Furthermore the people who live in Tenpenny Tower have ALL the rights in deciding which new people get to live in Tenpenny Tower and which don’t. The people of Tenpenny Tower act based on their own security of person and position. They paid to live in a safe haven where they have control over the admissions of new residents. Thus the only people who should be deciding who lives in the Tower are the residents. Whatever the residents desire must be accepted because they are the only ones with the right to determine admissions into the tower.

    When you try to force Roy into the tower you are the one who is evil by refusing to accept that only the residents should be deciding who gets to enter the tower and by bringing in a mass murderer into the tower who will represent a huge threat to the humans who live there when Roy has ZERO right to be in the tower.

    Furthermore ghouls which can go feral at any moment and leak deadly radiation from their bodies represent an unmitigateable danger to human life. No ghouls should ever be living in a settlement with humans because of these two huge unmitigateable dangers.

    Finally Roy is an evil criminal. He is ready to murder the people of Tenpenny Tower simply to violate their property rights. Not only should he not be allowed in to Tenpenny Tower because everyone already said no, but he is a murderer who should be given swift Wasteland justice along with his two coconspirators who are just as guilty as he is.

    Coveting your neighbor’s property was considered a sin in the bible for a reason. We have a long and venerable history of common law governing property rights for a reason. Just because Roy wants to live in Tenpenny Tower doesn’t mean he should and you certainly SHOULD NOT WORK TO GET HIM IN. WOrking for Roy in any capacity is evil. Killing Roy is the only morally good path.

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4 Trackbacks

  1. By Half-Masked » Archive » Award Never Changes… on Friday Mar 27, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    […] Wait, what? Best Writing? Are you kidding me? […]

  2. By On morality in video games | joshuameadows.com on Monday Oct 26, 2009 at 9:11 am

    […] as irrelevant to your overall progression whether you went the good or evil route. One quest chain in particular, the Roy Phillips/Tenpenny Tower quest, was such a glaring example of this irrelevancy that the […]

  3. […] doesn’t support the findings beyond what is presented. Shamus on Twenty-Sided provides a good example of this in Fallout 3. First, let us observe the “plausible baby steps” that lead the […]

  4. By Fallout 3 | Ludonarratology on Wednesday Aug 24, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    […] As a counterpoint, one can consider D. Riley’s discussion of “The Situation at Tenpenny Tower” in which he describes a quest where even the “good” solutions leave a bad taste in your mouth. Shamus Young extensively critiques the logic of this quest, the options available, and the game’s moral judgment of your choices in “Tenpenny Tower”. […]

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