A Rough Patch (Karma)

Fallout 3's karma system is a method of maintaining and recording the player's moral actions and their consequences, representing inclination toward a good, neutral or evil overall in-game status. While measured in points, only a particular karmic title, not a numerical value, is available and visible to the player. Karma is also important in Fallout 3 as it determines how non-player characters (NPCs) receive the player. For instance, if a player has very good karma, an NPC in Megaton will talk to the player every day and provide free items, such as ammunition, food and/or medicine. A player with evil karma, though, has an opportunity for the same benefits in Paradise Falls, a former shopping mall converted into a enslavement camp. In addition, karma limits whichNPCs may join the player as a valuable companion in combat. Clover, a slave, and Jericho, a mercenary, are most loyal to the player with evil karma, and will express boredom should the player perform too many good actions. Butch, a Vault 101 dweller, and Sergeant RL-3, a military robot, can be recruited by the player with neutral karma, but will not leave should the player perform too many evil or good actions. Fawkes, a friendly Super Mutant, and Star Paladin Cross, a Brotherhood of Steel member, will follow the player with good karma of their own free will and without cost, but both will leave and refuse to follow again should the player develop evil karma. However, Charon, a ghoul, andDogmeat, a dog, are the lone two NPCs who will join the player regardless of karma.

The player's karmic status is never fixed, always in flux and dependent upon particular actions taken by the player. In addition to killing evil characters and performing good quest actions, positive karma choices include donating caps to any church, selling the fingers of evil characters to the Regulators, providing scrap metal toward the repair of Megaton's water purifier and offering purified water to beggars outside settlement limits. In addition to killing non-evil characters and performing evil quest actions, negative karma choices include stealing items fromNPCs, selling the ears of non-evil characters to Daniel Littlehorn, providing the drug psycho to Paulie Cantelli in Rivet City which results in his death, hacking locked computer terminals and enslaving NPCS, even Raiders. It should be noted, too, that the selling of ears or fingers is only possible if the player takes either the Contract Killer or Lawbringer perk at level 14 or above, thereby providing another moral choice that might determine one's continued survival in the Capital Wasteland. Of course, the player can perform a mixture of these actions to maintain neutrality, but an arguably more authentic and interesting experience awaits the player determined to earn as little good and evil karma as possible. And, as explained later, Fallout 3's karma system reveals much about a particular definition of morality and how survival can become more or less likely as a result.