RPGs can still surprise me

I love Role Playing Games. I prefer the ones where a bunch of friend play with paper and pencils, but barring that I’ll live with computer RPGs. The best of them, like Mass Effect, are like being in control of your own epic movie.

Fallout 3 combines RPG elements with FPS (first person shooter) elements. The character interaction aren’t always what I’d like them to be, though. Usually it boils down to fighting moments and exposition moments. Mass Effect manages to make exposition moments more than just talking heads most of the time.

But I digress. One of the other problems with RPGs is if you don’t like how a scene turns out (or want to see the alternatives) it’s a pretty easy matter to just load up the last save and try again. This kind of takes away any worry of consequence, however.

But the other day I had a surprise in a game called Fallout 3, which is a post-nuclear war RPG, like Mad Max but with a 1950’s vision of the future in ruins.

Now, I’m a negotiator by nature. I don’t mind combat, but I like to find a non-violent solution to a problem if I can.

I had a mission at a hotel called Tenpenny Tower. The owner there wanted me to kill a bunch of ghouls (survivors of the nuclear war, basically intelligent zombies). I went to the ghouls and they were planning to invade Tenpenny Tower and kill everyone there.

Wouldn't you trust this face?

I, however, figured I could convince the residents that the Ghouls aren’t that bad and they can get along. I went back and forth a few times, convinced people it was a good idea for them to move in, and convinced the bigots who wouldn’t agree to leave. Mission accomplished, right? So you can imagine I was a bit concerned when I returned a few days later and saw only ghouls inside. What? No United Colours of Megaton going on here? I ask around and someone mentions not going down into the basement.

I go down and find all the residents who sided with me and agreed to let the ghouls in. All of them. Including Herbert “Daring” Dashwood, hero of the radio-drama I’d been listening to on the radio in the game. Damn decent man and biggest supporter of the ghouls. Talk about betrayal. Do everything right and get stabbed in the back.

I confronted the head ghoul about that, who basically flipped me off and told me they had it coming, and to watch myself if I didn’t want to be next. I considered his offer carefully.

Then I blew his head off.

I was going to leave it at that. Then before I left I mentioned the massacre to one of the other residents, who said “oh, well, they must have done something wrong” in a dismissive tone.

I went Lawrence of Arabia on their asses. Negative Karma be damned.


I suspect in my red haze the other ghouls protested their innocence, begging for their lives. There were no innocents. Not that day.

Tenpenny Tower is now a ghost hotel.

Okay, in all seriousness, I like the fact that this happened in the game. It’s certainly not what I wanted to happen, but the programmers were smart about handling this game-wise. Normally you know right away what the consequences of an action will be – and if you don’t like it’s all to easy to go to your last save and figure out what you SHOULD have done.

This time by the time you find out the eventual consequence, you’re too committed to the storyline, because several game days (and real hours) have passed. Few people are going to go back to an old save by that point and redo everything from the last three days or more.  You end up living with the consequences of your actions, for good or ill.

I liked it from a RPG point of view as well because I actually did go around and murder every last ghoul there. But aside from the leader (and one other guy), none attack you, and are polite (and fearful when you start the shooting).

I felt bad afterwards (and negative karma is deserved, they weren’t armed and couldn’t fight back) but from a game/story point of view I don’t regret it. If you were in that position would you see any of them as innocent? Or complaisant in a small scale genocide? Especially since you’d worked so hard to make things work out, and convinced so many people ghouls aren’t bad people… ghah.

So frustrating from a personal point of view – great moment from an RPG/game/story point of view.