When I reviewed Fallout 3, I did some complaining about the writing. Not all quests in the game are bad though. I wanted to take a closer look at two selected side quests: one that annoyed me, and one that I really liked and compare them. Needless to say, this article will contain major spoilers for some of the aforementioned side quests. It will however not spoil the main quest for you.
Tenpenny Towers Terrorist
Tenpenny Tower is one of the few remaining buildings in the wasteland that is still standing. Alistar Tenpenny, it’s owner managed to clean it up very well and the place is surprisingly free of trash, rubble and dirt. It is a lovely place to live, and unsurprisingly it is also very exclusive gated community populated by rich snobs. How do you become a rich snob in a post apocalyptic wasteland? I don’t know, and the game doesn’t tell you.
You can find out that one of the residents is a former slaver from Paradise Falls who swindled out her compatriots out of a huge sum of money. Another is famous adventurer Daring Dashwood who actually has his own radio play on GNR. Others are somehow rich by default. One of the golden rules of this community is “no Ghouls allowed”. Presumably because Ghouls are scary, they smell bad (no, they do) and etc… The game goes out of the way to portray the inhabitants of the tower as bunch of bigoted racists.
That rule was put into effect because a group of local Ghouls wanted to buy their way into the community. They apparently had the money to afford to live there, but were turned away. Their leader, Roy Philips gets really fired up about this and threatens to take the tower by force if he is not allowed in.
The Tenpenny residents take this threat very seriously, and the local security wants to hire someone to make sure Roy is out of the picture. This is where you come in. Your mission is to take out Philips and his gang before they can organize and do something reckless.
When you find Roy, you can talk to him and his accomplices about the situation. The Ghouls that follow him are actually nice and reasonable people. They are however taken in by Roy’s strength of Character and his charisma and are willing to do whatever he deems necessary to ensure their survival.
Philips himself however seems unstable. He is a violent man with a chip on his shoulder. It’s clear that he harbors some deeply seethed grudge against humans, and never misses a chance to insult one. When he is done mocking you, he will ask you to help him infiltrate the tower bu unlocking the underground passages. He plans to let the feral ghouls into the building and simply sit back and watch them butcher the defenseless residents.
We have a name for people like him – Roy Philips is a terrorist. He has no qualms about butchering all these innocent people. Yes, they are racist bigots but that does not necessarily mean they need to die.
At that point you can take three paths:
- You can side with Tenpenny residents and kill Roy and his friends
- You can side with Roy and help him attack the tower
- You can go back to Mr. Tenpenny and negotiate on behalf of Roy
There are no other alternatives. Since I was playing a good character siding with Roy was out of the question for obvious reasons. Killing him also seemed iffy. While I wouldn’t have a problem killing Roy by himself, the quest demanded that I also take out his two accomplices. I couldn’t do that – they were nothing but nice to me. If you do take this path, however the game will award you bad karma.
Therefore I picked the nonviolent route, even though I knew it was not the best idea. The people there did not like Ghouls, and Roy Philips did not like “smootskins”. I knew he would be a problem, but nevertheless I got him inside in exchange for good Karma. I hoped that the tight security in the tower would keep him in check. I was wrong.
As soon as you leave the tower, Roy Philips takes out Alister Tenpenny and then kills all human residents out of the tower. Note that the people who got slaughtered are the same people who agreed to accept the Ghouls into their midst. They were not Ghoul haters – they were far from it. I convinced all the truly prejudiced residents to move out as part of the quest. So Roy slaughtered the same people who have shown him acceptance and hospitality. His friends are just as guilty for allowing him to go through with it (or actively helping him to accomplish the slaughter).
This quest is purposefully set up to result in death of innocent people. No matter which path you take, someone nice will end up dead. In retrospect I realized that killing Philips and his friends would be the lesser evil – at least compared to the mass slaughter of the innocent residents. I especially felt bad for poof old Dashwood who was a genuinely nice guy. But the game punishes you for taking that path, and rewards you for enabling Roys genocidal tendencies.
I don’t know… I just felt like the writers specifically went out of their way to confuse and annoy me on this. What was the message they were trying to get across here? That you are a chump and a pussy for trying to resolve the situation in a non-violent matter?
I think what happened here is that they tried to shoehorn this quest into the good vs evil template a little bit to hard. There is really no karma neutral option here – you either help Roy against your better judgment like a good boy scout would, or you take him out like a hardened mercenary with no heart.
The Oasis is a secluded valley surrounded by high cliffs close to the North edge of the map. It can be difficult to find, which is a pity considering the fact it is actually a good quest. This hidden Valley is actually a lush green paradise with growing trees, green grass and blooming flowers. It exists because of a special Ghoul named Harold. At some point in his life, he entered some sort of symbiosis with a small tree that started growing out of his head. Initially it didn’t bother him so he just kept it there. In the end however, the tree outgrew him and Harold became rooted to the spot and unable to move. As the tree matured however it started creating strange seed pods which gave the start to the Oasis. Each seed would grow into a tree, a bush or a flower even though the soil was arid and devoid of nutrients. Eventually people found the little Oasis that grew around Harold and started worshiping him as a living god (even though he asked them not to).
When you reach the Oasis, Harold will ask you to kill him as he is tired and frustrated of being rooted into the ground and unable to do anything. It is a mercy killing, and he really makes a good case to justify it. However if you talk to his worshipers you will quickly realize it is not as simple as that. For example, a little girl who was born in the Oasis tells you that Harold is her best friend, and that when she has a bad dream she goes to visit him and sleeps between his roots. If you can mercy-kill Halrold after that your heart must be made out of stone.
Fortunately you are given an alternative. There seems to be a schism among the worshipers. Some think that the Oasis should be kept a secret forever and that the growth of the seed pods must be inhibited. Other group thinks that the Oasis is a gift for all of humanity, and the growth of the seed pods should be accelerated so that the lush garden overgrows it’s borders and spreads into the wasteland quicker.
Harold will allow you access to his heart which is located in the underground cavern system below the Oasis. Once you reach it, you will be able to either destroy it (killing Harold), apply special inhibiting sap to it (stopping the production of seed pods) or apply the special liniment (to speed up their production). Strangely enough, you can only do one of these things. For example, if you apply the sap, you won’t be able to destroy the heart anymore.
This is an interesting moral dilemma because unlike the Roy Phillips case (where each choice is wrong) each choice has both positive and negative ramifications. Harold is slowly going insane, and it is not difficult to imagine his suffering. Killing him would be an act of mercy. But it would also negatively affect his worshipers who rely on his guidance. It will probably also deeply affect the little girl who treats Harold not as a God but as a close friend.
Inhibiting the growth of the seed pods will keep the Oasis safe from intruders – or at least safer than before. But it means that the miracle of it’s creation will remain contained locally. And who knows if without constant re-seeding the oasis won’t dry up and be reclaimed by the wasteland.
On the other hand accelerating their growth will expose Harold and his group to outsiders who will follow the traces of green down to the source. Who knows what will happen to them when raiders or super mutants decide to pay them a visit. Or what if someone like Alister Tenpenny finds it and decides to exploit it for profit?
Then again, is it right to contain the Oasis? After all Harold’s strange mutation might one day help to make the wasteland green again. Harold’s condition should be studied to see if it can be replicated. If it would be possible to create more such trees (preferably without a ghoul bonded to them) it would be a great alternative to the illusive GECK technology.
I chose to accelerate the seed growth, and was able to convince Harold to stick around for the good of his worshipers. The quarrel amongst the Treeminders ended an both sides accepted my decision knowing that the Oasis won’t outgrow it’s borders overnight. This resulted in good karma.
I played with other alternatives, and the only time I was punished with a karma penalty was when I set Harold on fire after learning that it was one of his biggest fears. And let’s face it – that was kind of a jerk move.
This quest works because it offers you a tough choice between several alternatives, none of each is clearly good or evil. The writers did not try to shoehorn it into the good/evil template and left it open ended. It is up to you to decide what is best for Harold, the Oasis and the Capital Wasteland itself.
Why couldn’t the Tenpenny Towers quest be structured this way? Why couldn’t we have an extra option to talk Roy out of his crazy idea of living in Tenpenny tower and escorting him to Underworld which is probably the only place a human hater like Roy could live without getting into trouble. We could make that to be the good karma option, and make the other peaceful resolution to be karma neutral. In that context, the death of innocent people wouldn’t cause a bewildering shock and a feeling that the game just pulled a fast one on you. I mean, yeah – it would still be surprising and shocking. But not so much out of place. After all, it would be your fault – you have misjudged Roy’s character and his ability to leave peacefully among humans.