Overhaulout Part 5: The Story of James

By Rutskarn Posted Friday Sep 22, 2017

Filed under: Video Games 59 comments

Fallout 3’s James is a terrible main character–possibly because he wasn’t understood to be in some ways the main character. His actions, principles, and backstory solely drive the main quest right up until he dies. This week is about making all that count for something: making the player’s relationship with and study of James something useful and worthwhile.

There’s a lot we stand to improve, but these are my chief objectives:

  • The story should provide a genuine mystery players feel they’re solving. I don’t mean adding detective mechanics or even detective-lite sequences, like Fallout 4 dabbles in. When I say the story should be a “mystery,” I mean there should be a progression from unexplained but important event–> disconnected facts that are but incomplete but intriguing–> revelations that suggest possibilities –> satisfying conclusion. That’s a pretty standard formula for hooking, motivating, and entertaining an audience presented with a question that needs answering, like, “Why did my dad just vanish?” Currently the story runs from unexplained but important event–>directions to the end of the mystery–>directions to the end of the mystery–>the mystery unravels abruptly.Technically, by having your character’s birth take place in a location not available inside the vault, the game provides a subtle clue to the mystery of “what’s up with dad.” Which would be great, if it weren’t the only clue. That’s sort of mechanically functional, since a big part of the game is in journeying from place to place, but it’s also dull and doesn’t make efficient or memorable use of the setup.
  • Make more complete use of the characters and locations already employed by the story. If you cut Megaton from the main quest’s gameplay, that’d be a huge loss—it serves a lot of mechanical functionality. But from a story perspective, Megaton is totally dispensable. It doesn’t inform our understanding of James’ character or our mission to find him in anything but the most perfunctory fashion: “he went that-a-way.” Let’s fix that.

I’m going to proceed through the locations of the main quest in order. For each location, I’ll do two related rewrites: one that makes a drastic alteration to the location’s history vis-a-vis its relationship with James, another that makes minor alterations to how the player finds it and what cluesAgain, not even clues in the sense that they functionally permit the mystery to be solved; just clues in the sense that they encourage the player to actually speculate about the information they’ve received. are available there. In doing so I’m going to set a new rule for myself: in his life before Vault 101, James should have progressed from area to area in the same chronological order as the player. This not only makes it easier for the player to eventually connect the clues they’ve found and figure out what their father was up to, it suggests a sense of continuity between the main characters. By the time they meet James, they’ll have walked in his shoes: they’ll have seen what he’s seen and understand why he made his choices. This is important because before long, James will die, and the player will have to decide whether they’re going to follow in his footsteps or choose their own path.


Decades Ago…

A glitchy source of stable water controlled by a tyrannical scientist-king, Megaton is carrot and stick to hundreds of laborers. Scavengers, manufacturers, tradesmen and tradeswomen—all keep their heads down and follow the hydroking’s whims, believing his claims that without his maintenance secrets the machines will overload and the only stable source of clean water will vanish. The only people who really profit off his manipulations are the tyrant’s cronies, the ones with the resources or charm to get in his good graces and reap some of the rewards of hydromonopoly. Despite his unique medical knowledge, James is not one of these people. He tells himself that he stays in Megaton so he can provide for people the tyrant would otherwise extort or neglect. Secretly, he suspects he stays out of fear and complacency.

One day, an engineer named Catherine comes to James in private asking him to treat her serious electrical burns. James feels elated, vindicated: he really is recognized as distinct from the tyrant’s system. He asks her how she got the burns, and because she trusts him she tells him: she was working on a way to permanently stabilize the purifier. This is what James has been waiting to hear. This is the dangerous and important praxis to knock him out of complacency. He uses his relatively trusted status to beg, borrow, or purchase obscure texts for Catherine to study. He studies with her and helps her run experiments. He learns basic engineering; then, more complex engineering. He spies for her. When the day comes, he stands watch while she makes her move.

The purifier is liberated. The tyrant flees into the wasteland with his cronies, his work undone. Most of the labor force spreads out to find more productive scavenging or hunting, returning only for fresh supplies every day or two. Megaton becomes a destination for merchants and home for those who sell to merchants. James considers being one of these people, but Catherine convinces him that they’re fast becoming the capital’s premier experts on water purification. They have a duty to share that information. So they arm themselves and venture east.

Most of Megaton’s old guard remember Catherine fondly and even make a junk statue of her in the style of the capital’s ruins. Only one of the men who lingered still holds a grudge: Catherine’s previous partner-in-treason, a man who’d supplied parts and taken risk for the operation because he believed they’d become the new tyrants. A cunning, enterprising young man named Colin Moriarty.

Modern Day

While the player is traveling to Megaton, they pass a patch of unusually bright flowers near Vault 101.

Not many in Megaton were there when Catherine liberated the town, but everyone more or less knows the story and will happily tell it, pointing to the indistinct rusty junk-monument on the hill. Still, no-one recognized the “old fellow who spent thousands of caps on supplies and went off south”Wait a minute…caps? How did he have thousands of bottlecaps? You can ask, but no-one has a better answer than a shrug. as the young doctor from twenty-five years ago.

Moriarty did recognize your father, but when he finds out you’re the man’s offspring he’s by no means inclined to help either of you. He offers to sell you information for a heavy price; if you turn him down and come back later, he jacks it up. The only thing that gives him pleasure is the idea that the offspring of the people who screwed him over in the name of altruism is doing his dirty work in the name of naked, vicious greed. Give him his money, he’ll give you exactly one piece of information: “He asked about that damn radio station to the east.” He gloats that he’ll probably die trying to get there—that it’s a rat’s nest of super mutants not even the merchants are crazy enough to cut through.

At the Catherine Monument, the player finds a single, bright flower.


Decades Ago…

Jacob and Catherine’s two-person humanitarian mission finds mixed results. Sometimes it’s all they can do to set up a crude water purifier for irradiated nomads; sometimes they’re chased off by feral robbers and raiders gone mad from radiation poisoning. Often enough, they’ll fix or install a system only to discover raiders have killed the owners and taken it over. Painfully admitting that they’re doing more harm than good with piecemeal efforts, James and Catherine set up a lab to work on a larger solution in the basement of a defunct radio station.

Modern Day

On the way to GNR, the player occasionally finds clusters of raiders around unusual water sources: seemingly normal water fountains, sinks, and pumps that give zero rads and have the prefix “Purified.” Visually, the only common feature of these sources is that they’re engraved with a big fat “J + C.” One of these raider groups attempts to sell the water to the player at an extortionately high rate, explaining just how rare pure water is. If the player refuses, the raiders turn violent.

Three Dog doesn’t really know why your father came: James was too cagey to discuss who he really was or where he was going. Three Dog does mention your father spent a lot of time “with the old computers in the basement.” All of said computers have been wiped–and very recently–except for one corrupted terminal that displays fragments of research notes about “mass water purification,” references to a person named Catherine, “the problem of raiders co-opting water,” and finally a potential ally: “Doctor Li, if the merchants are to be believed.” This is less of a clue than the lead doing Three Dog’s quest will create, but to a diligent player it might just connect to a mention of a Dr. Li from a random trader earlier.

Rivet City

James and Catherine finally meet up with a genius radiation expert named Dr. Li. The three young idealists hatch a plan to create the ultimate purifier. Not just a resource to fight over; free water for everyone, forever. An end to so much of the tyranny and madness and death and violence that plagues the wasteland. When it becomes too vast, their project moves from Rivet City to the nearby memorial. The work tirelessly, fueled by their collective brilliance and many early breakthroughs. When setbacks inevitably come it’s that much more painful.

At first the project merely stalls. Then it bites back. Radiation leaks kill one of the scientists they’d hired to work on the project. A tank fails catastrophically and nearly detonates, ruining irreplaceable pre-war tech. Benefactors from Rivet City pull their funding. But still they labor on–until one bleak morning when Dr. Li discovers a heretofore unforseen problem.

The plant certainly could purify huge batches of water–but with only a little tweaking, and actually far less engineering, it could just as easily purify reservoir quantities of water while exacerbating the contamination elsewhere. She presents this to James and Catherine as merely something to watch out for, but they’re horrified: they know better than anyone that for a certain kind of tyrant, this would be not a bug but a feature, a way to extort subjects and customers while literally killing off the competition. Dr. Li accepts their judgment and suggests scaling back to a more conventional yet high-grade purification system, but your parents’ spirits drop.

Then, far too late, the next bombshell drops: the “pure” water they’d created from their early successes had a contaminant. Easy to eliminate, if you know it’s there. Unhealthy, but not individually fatal unless the afflicted is under severe physical duress.

Two weeks later Catherine dies in childbirth.

More scientists leave the project. The usual supply drop doesn’t come. Super mutants are seen roving the area, killing and marauding. James is a father now. He’s heard rumors that there’s problems with the water chip at Vault 101, that robots are roving the wasteland offering desperate sums for a fix or a replacement.

James swallows his pride.

Rivet City, Modern Day

Dr. Li reveals the practical elements of the mystery: that your parents were wasteland-roving water radicals who eventually tried, and failed, to give the Wasteland the gift of health and stability. What she doesn’t is the whole story, including exactly why he left. That part James will have to explain in person.





[1] Technically, by having your character’s birth take place in a location not available inside the vault, the game provides a subtle clue to the mystery of “what’s up with dad.” Which would be great, if it weren’t the only clue.

[2] Again, not even clues in the sense that they functionally permit the mystery to be solved; just clues in the sense that they encourage the player to actually speculate about the information they’ve received.

[3] Wait a minute…caps? How did he have thousands of bottlecaps? You can ask, but no-one has a better answer than a shrug.

From The Archives:

59 thoughts on “Overhaulout Part 5: The Story of James

  1. Rutskarn says:

    Just a heads-up for those who don’t follow me on Patreon: there’s been an unexpected medical emergency with a very close loved one. My schedule may be disrupted for a while.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Yikes. Spending the night in the emergency room with a loved one has ruined my month more than once. My condolences.

      1. Rutskarn says:

        That’s more or less exactly why there was no post last week.

        1. Ravens Cry says:

          Best hopes to you and your loved one, Rutskarn.

    2. tremor3258 says:

      I hope it resolves well.

    3. Christopher says:

      I hope all goes well, Ruts.

    4. ehlijen says:

      All the best and a speedy recovery!

    5. BlueHorus says:

      As others have said: best wishes, and I hope it works out.
      Thanks for letting us know.

      1. Nimrandir says:

        You and those you love will be in my thoughts.

        May the situation work out as best it can.

    6. Ciennas says:

      Oh my goodness. Rutskarn, I’m sorry to hear you’re having trouble.

      Good luck. I hope it works out.

    7. Mike Andersen says:

      Best wishes and good luck, Rutskarn. I hope everything works out well.

    8. Hector says:

      Take all the time you need! Some things are way more important.

    9. Cuthalion says:

      I hope things get better soon!

    10. Zak McKracken says:

      I never know if best wishes from random internet people are appropriate but I guess if bad comments can actually hurt, then maybe nice ones can actually help?

      I hope that things are a better by now and continue to improve.
      Like, reaallly quickly.

      And no worries about this reader. I’m so far behind, I wouldn’t run out of stuff to catch up on if the internet stopped updating for half a year now, so take your time for the actually important things.

  2. MichaelGC says:

    I misread it as “if you cut Megatron from the main quest's gameplay,” and very briefly worried that I'd missed several entries of this rewrite. (Although I guess a crossover wouldn't be completely outlandish. After all, even in the original Optimus' cousin Liberty shows up at the end.)

  3. tremor3258 says:

    Okay – those aren’t huge changes, but the set of breadcrumbs are a great sense of continuity and the sort of thing you can tie an achievement to.

    Also a great reason for the project to be abandoned.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Well, they kind of are big changes. They’re just not huge changes, since most of today’s post could be done as text-entries for your PipBoy. The rest would need different quest text and spoken lines, but I don’t think anything Rutz has done so far in this series has needed any new 3D models. So, as far as AAA budgets go, this is still a fairly small change, that could have made Fallout 3 a much, much better game. :)

      1. Grey Cap says:

        New skins for the purified water sources and a unique model for the scrap sculpture of the saviour of Megaton. Apart from the voice acting we’re still at a reasonable size for a mod!

        1. MichaelGC says:

          Do we need a new model even, or could we make happily do with a metal* version of Moira**? 😁

          Like with the big statue of the two guys shaking hands near the Mojave Outpost in Fallout: New Vegas. (I seem to remember Rutskarn speculating that those were just normal – if outsized – character models during the FO:NV Spoiler Warning season, so I'm just going to go ahead and take that as gospel.)


          ** I know she's called “˜Catherine' but when I think “˜hero' and “˜science!' and “˜Megaton' my mind turns inexorably to Moira…

          1. Sleeping Dragon says:

            I know this rewrite is focused on the main quest but I’d like to see how certain sidequests and secondary characters feature into it. Moira being one of them seeing how her quest is a pretty big chunk of gameplay, a post below suggested the “Hydroking in hiding” could actually be Tenpenny.

          2. Echo Tango says:

            If the junk-metal statue in New Vegas was actually a new model, it was done in 10 minutes by somebody. It really is just two character models posed to be shaking hands*, and colored bronze. If that couldn’t be done in-engine, it’s still not something that had a lot of effort put into it. :)

            * Unless I’m mis-remembering what pose they were in; It’s been a while since I’ve played the game.

      2. Sleeping Dragon says:

        I think the point of the rewrite is that it doesn’t require significantly more work than was invested in the actual FO3 game, to prove that making the plot work doesn’t require the game to, say, double in cost. Obviously any change to dialogue would require recording different lines since it’s all voiced, similarly we’d need the “J+C” texture, the flowers and the statue models but those are honestly trivial to make. The point is, it doesn’t require, for example, creating a new landmass for the Enclave controlled territory, designing models for one more faction or significantly more dialogue than was in the original game.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          Also, if this rewrite had happened early enough in the game’s development, a lot of effort could have been re-purposed in the new alternate timeline. The dumb/broken things in the game we got, could have been instead things from the game Rutskarn is making us wish we had gotten. :)

  4. Viktor says:

    “Technically, by having your character's birth take place in a location not available inside the vault, the game provides a subtle clue to the mystery of “what's up with dad.” Which would be great, if it weren't the only clue.”

    That does not count as a damn clue. It’s a video game, they don’t get to pull ‘tutorial area isolated from the main game’ and then come back later with ‘Oh, no, see, that was a story decision’. If you want to do that sort of messing around with people’s expectations for the medium, it needs to be a focus(like Bioshock), not a blink-and-you-miss-it bit of Shyamalan foreshadowing.

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      I’m willing to give the devs this one because when you think about it the room is different from the vault interiors and it’s really not something that you’re supposed to pick up on the first time you play. You also see it briefly, it’s blurry, it’s implied we do not see the entirety of the vault at any point and you’re kinda focused on creating your character at this point. Also, it’s honestly not very long before the “reveal” that you’re not from the vault so I wouldn’t exactly call it a twist to the game’s narrative.

      You know, the more I think about it the more I want a game that’s set entirely inside one of the vaults.

      1. Viktor says:

        You could do that, though not as an actual Fallout game. My first instinct would be a Stardew Valley/Animal Crossing-style sim, but that doesn’t really fit the universe. Maybe a linear puzzle or adventure game, with a tone focused heavily on suspense?

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          Ehh, there is that Fallout something promotional game they released on mobiles before FO4 (and later on Steam) but it’s not what I was thinking about. I know that Fallout games are mechanically about exploration but I think it could still be done (maybe a vault where people are divided into smaller, semi-isolated groups before the start of the game, or some caves, or a connection to another vault or something). What I’d like to see would be a kind of “survival of and in dilapidated vault” aspect possibly mixed with a conflict between several factions, but on a personal level, not as an adventure game or a strategic simulation (though the latter is an interesting idea).

  5. Spdbump08 says:

    This is absolutely brilliant. I love almost all of your stuff, the different “let’s plays” and whatnot, because you are a good writer and tremendously funny, but I feel like what you’re doing here is pretty special. You aren’t drastically changing the game, but the improvements to the story are remarkable. I’ve actually been a reader of this site for years but have always remained content to follow from afar without commenting, but I just had to say something about how much I’m enjoying this series. Keep up the great work, and I’m hoping for the best with your loved one.

  6. MichaelGC says:



    Also technically you haaaave, as we'll have fought plenty of Super New Mutants around New GNR…

  7. DwarfWarden says:


    The water purifier is completely useless to the Enclave yet they’re willing to murder for a broken purifer. This is objectively stupid and makes no sense. Worse yet, if you’re an evil character, you have no reason to even fix the purifier. Maybe you can play it off as “My character has daddy issues” and thus wants to find Dad for closure but as it stands if you’re evil you have no investment in the broken purifier. Furthermore the ‘evil’ route of adding tainted FEV? WHY WOULD AN EVIL CHARACTER MAKE THEIR OWN SOURCE OF PURIFIED WATER DEADLY TO THEMSELVES???

    This rewrite gives an infinitely better reason for an evil character to want the purifier – not as a water cleaner, but as an enemy irradiator. Simple, effective, and it gives the Enclave way more reason other than “wanting a broken purifier so badly they’ll murder innocent unarmed scientists for it”.

    Not to mention the fact that the purifier is at the mouth of a river spewing clean water into irradiated water making slightly less irradiated water. Gee it’s almost like if this were set up at a dam it could purify an entire river allowing for more fertile land, more food, better living conditions, etc. etc.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Actually, if we keep the river-lake location of the purifier, the evil version of the purifier becomes even more evil-empire-themed. They set up a Hydro Kingdom 2.0 at this location, selling clean water at high prices, and irradiating everything downstream. Upstream is less irradiated, but still very dangerous, so only degenerates and criminals live there; Downstream / lake is toxic, so it’s the land of mutants and ghouls. Normal humans must live under the iron fist of Water King II, or traveling far through dangerous lands.

  8. JBC31187 says:

    So, would the Hydroking return as part of the Enclave? Or maybe he’s a broken old man hiding out somewhere, who happens to have some key information?

    1. Groggy says:

      “Lair of the Hydroking” sounds like it would make for a great DLC.

    2. KarmaTheAlligator says:

      Tenpenny, maybe?

      1. Blue_Pie_Ninja says:

        It could explain his tower and wanting to blow up Megaton

      2. JBC31187 says:

        Tenpenny is a water trader and direct competitor in this new storyline. But I like them better as separate people- it widens the scope, prevents all of the world’s ills from coming from the same few sources. Maybe Hydroking’s running one of those raider gangs camped out at one of James/Mom’s fixed-up rad-free water bubblers. Or, instead of running the show, he’s now a mere flunky, working like mad to keep himself valuable and alive- “how the mighty have fallen,” etc.

  9. tmtvl says:

    Jacob and Catherine's two-person humanitarian mission finds mixed results.

    Jacob? As in Cerberus flunkie Jacob? What’s he doing in the Capital Wasteland?

    1. galacticplumber says:

      Nah, actually it’s a formalization of Jack. Metal gear rising crossover a few centuries later.

  10. The Nick says:

    This set-up is tremendous. Even if poorly done, it feels like it has mountains more of an arc.

  11. Benjamin Hilton says:

    Aw man. I remember when Rutskarn learned praxis was a word in Human Revolution. Now he’s using it in sentences. They grow up so fast.

    1. Rutskarn says:

      Yeah, what can I say. It’s been the kind of year where you learn political action lingo real fast.

  12. Pyrrhic Gades says:

    Mystery you say? What this game needs is a few more shocking twists.

    Like how about, when you first encounter James, he reveals that he is your father!

    1. Syal says:

      Hah, I’m getting a picture of every quest ending with someone new telling you they’re your father.

      1. BlueHorus says:

        Personally, I’d have much preferred it if Moira Brown was my father in F03, rather than James.
        I’ll take the dad with the personality, thanks!

        And James never gave you a stick that exploded mole rats.

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          To be fair Moira also didn’t purposely give you a stick that explodes molerats. On the other hand she didn’t exactly ask for the stick back.

          1. Ciennas says:

            What would she want with a stick that explodes mole rats? She obviously wanted something like Mole-nip. I assume because she wanted to cuddle them.

            1. Sleeping Dragon says:

              Well I’d assume if she cared for the molerats so much she’d want to destroy it. Though seeing as it’s Moira she’d probably never even think you could have kept it for future use.

              1. BlueHorus says:

                “What, you kept that stick I made? But why would you do that? Those poor little mole rats, what did they ever do to yo-
                HEY! I’ve just have a great idea! How do you feel about – wait for it – turning a flamethrower on yourself in the name of science! I’ll be able to study second-degree burns up close! Don’t worry, I’ve got like a bucket full of home-made burn cream behind the counter here, so you’ll be fine in the end. Now whaddya say?

                Oh, were we saying something about sticks just now? Never mind, I forgot.”

  13. BlueHorus says:


    James is a Macguffin in the original game; these changes turn him into a character, someone your player might actually be interested in finding out more about, rather than a thing you find after a few hours of following an arrow on the compass that sends you on.

    Also, I love the idea that the water purifier killed the player’s mother. It’s a great conflict/depth to James. Bonus points for giving the mother an implied personality too!
    (I’d genuinely forgotten the original game gave her a name beyond ‘mom’. Her character was literally ‘she loved you very much, then died’.)

    You could add to the conflict with James by giving the player character an obvious, non-harmful mutation like six fingers or nine toes. Just different enough to get bullied growing up.
    If the player’s INT is high enough, they know the meaning of the phrase ‘in-utero poisoning’ and can give him shit about it.

    PS: Apologies if this is a repeat of something I’ve said above. For some reason, I’m not seeing my comments appear after I click the post button.

    1. MichaelGC says:

      Be fair – you're omitting a full third of her character, there. 😉

      She loved you very much, and liked that verse from Revelation for some reason, then died.

      There we go; fixed.

      1. Syal says:

        “I see you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot. Marry me.”

  14. Decius says:

    I think you’re breaking a few of the rules of mystery.

    Clues are things that characters find, not things that the audience sees.

    And the player doesn’t need to be able to find the entire trial. If they fail, they can be forced to explore until they pick up a different part of it.

    1. MichaelGC says:

      Not sure about that, but either way, I think Rutskarn's explanation of what he's trying to achieve with his changes hangs together, doesn't it? Whatever we call it, whether it be “˜mystery' or, I dunno, “˜Bernard'.

      And I don't mean Rutskarn gets to rewrite the rules of mystery … I mean that Rutskarn's explanation of what he's trying to achieve is sufficiently detailed to be judged on its own merits, isn't it? Rather than compared to other things and found to be not like them? Not sure if I'm explaining myself very well. Ignoring the word “˜mystery,' the mini-manifesto (“minifesto?” No) is pretty clear, so I'm wondering if it's the whole approach you take issue with, or if it's mainly the entanglement or association with other types of mystery which doesn't work for you. (He does say he's not talking of a detective-style mystery … really you could call it “the way James' story unfolds” rather than a “˜mystery' as-such, although I realise my re-formulation is a little unwieldy.)

    2. DivFord says:

      Is that distinction even meaningful? It’s a first-person game (VATS aside), so whatever the audience sees essentially is what the character finds.

  15. KarmaTheAlligator says:

    Funny how I’m reading this as a player, since I wasn’t shocked by the fact Dad would have bottlecaps (they’re the currency after all, everyone has some), instead of wondering why he’d have some if he had always been in the vault, as would the character.

  16. trevalyan says:

    I do hope your loved one gets better, Rutskarn. :(

    I’m having real trouble with the idea that James -isn’t- the Hydroking, even when the revised backstory works. It explains what he was doing with his considerable science skill, why no one talks about the old exiled king, where he got a fortune in caps, why Tenpenny didn’t burn Megaton to the ground decades ago, why Burke specifically thinks of you as someone who might blow up the town, and why the Enclave took a long-term approach to destabilizing the region instead of simply ruling it the second their DC bunkers opened up. Bad guys don’t want to mess with him, and good guys got crushed- at least until a charismatic engineer changed the wasteland forever.

    It also means you don’t have to introduce a new character, or put the Hydroking on someone like Tenpenny or Autumn (who would never be outside the Enclave anyways).

    1. JBC31187 says:

      Is James old enough to have been the Hydroking? I was under the impression that this was a generation or two ago- the evil bartender (Colin Moriarty?) was one of the Hydroking’s flunkies, but James was younger than Colin.

      Also, if James was the Hydroking, what’s his game now? Did he repent? Is he making another go at ruling the wasteland? Was he never evil in the first place, merely inept or naive?

      1. trevalyan says:

        You’re the new generation. James and Colin represent the older generation. So yes, he’d be old enough to be the Hydroking. Whether he was a young prodigy who was quick with a weapon AND his Medicine skill, or just older than you’d think.

        As for an angle: I imagine the Hydroking always believed the Wasteland was a mess, and he just needed to rule it. Not the cartoonish supervillainy of the Enclave or Caesar’s Legion: much closer to Ashur from the Pitt, perhaps more of a benevolent tyrant. When a brilliant young engineer came in, made the purifier work at a level he could never manage, and showed him a better way was possible… he decided to try things her way. And that’s how you were born.

        I don’t imagine such a man would ever be inept or naive, properly understood. Before, he did the best he could as a benevolent tyrant. Now, he’s doing the best he can as an atoner. And you have become the crossroads, not just for the future of the Capital Wasteland, but for the Hydroking himself. Does he keep going on Catherine’s path, firm in the belief that niceness can triumph if only enough people work for it? Or do you become evil, and show him that the Wasteland is only one generation away from complete collapse: that a firm hand is always going to be needed, to tuck vital resources tightly in a fist.

        1. Gordon says:

          On the one hand, that’s an interesting take with some nice, heartfelt prose.

          On the other hand, the name “Hydroking” is so delightfully goofy that I giggle every time I read it, so the overall effect of parody.

          Personally, I prefer having the Hydroking as a separate character, if only to more effectively chart James’ path from revolutionary zeal to humbled and heartbroken. The basic idea is that he and Catherine had lofty ambitions that fell short, and that’s undercut by having him ALREADY have fallen from power.

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Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>

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