The Tato and I: my Fallout 4 journal

When I started playing Fallout 4 last spring, I fell hard for this post-apocalyptic Skyrim world and found myself talking about my irradiated farms when people asked me how I was doing IRL. I started posting updates to my group chat so I could act a little more normal in public. Spoilers, etc. 

March 22

So the backstory of Fallout 4 is that I am a charming young lawyer with a handsome soldier husband. We live in an adorable suburb of Concord MA with our infant son in an alternate future USA that looks a lot like the 1950s except with smarter technology, mostly run on nuclear power. One day, surprise! Nuclear warfare! My family rushes to an underground vault where we are for some reason cryogenically frozen. This seems unsafe for my young son, who is for some reason sharing a cryo cell with my husband. Whatever.

I wake up at one point because someone kidnaps my son and murders my husband! And then back to sleep.

When I wake up for real, my son is gone, my husband is still super dead but still handsome due to cryo, and everyone else is skeletons.

Creeping out of the underground vault, my charming suburb is in ruins and my trusty house robot informed me that 200 years have passed since the nuclear detonation. The robot has not seen my son but thinks I should ask the scrappy band of human survivors living in Concord. I do, once I have picked off all the bandits threatening them, but they don’t know where my son is either. What they do know is: they want to FARM.

SO DO I!

Press pause on the whole looking for my son thing. Turns out that all those random coffee cups and batteries and fire extinguishers I’ve been picking up in my old neighborhood can be salvaged to build houses and generators and water purifiers. I built a little doghouse for the German Shepherd I picked up in my travels. I built a jukebox so all the other randos I’ve attracted to my farm have something to do when they are not tending slightly poisonous plants. No one told me that Fallout 4 was a FARMING SIM.

At this date, I have one big farm and three small farms in the Wasteland. The small farms belonged to other humans, so I am just helping them out a bit. Their happiness meters started low (30-50%) but are creeping up–probably because I have started hanging up paintings of kittens in each of them.

The big farm in my old suburb is doing great–80% happiness. I drop by about once a day to plant some more little messed-up potato-tomato hybrids (“tatos”) and build a few more beds for the new settlers. Yesterday some two-headed cows wandered in, so I built them a feeding trough so they’ll stick around.

That’s all for now. I really just wanted to brag about my cows.

March 25

I am making new friends in the Wasteland! At first it was just me and my dog and my farmer friends, but eventually I stumbled across some larger communities with bars and hotels and residents who were ready to move on. My first friend was a guy named Maccready who heartily approved of lockpicking and casual murder but made fun of me for collecting junk from unlocked boxes and corpses.

Maccready and I met a friendly Super Mutant, which is normally an oxymoron as most Super Mutants are trying to kill us, but this one has listened to Shakespeare on the Wasteland radio and wished to travel with me to find the milk of human kindness. Milk makes humans strong, he reasoned, and he likes strong things. He dislikes dishonesty; he has nothing bad to say about casual murder but hates it when I sneak and steal, to the point I got worried that he might try to fight me (and win). When I tried to talk to him about it, though, he just gave me some meat he’d found somewhere and gruffly told me to eat it before it went bad, so I think he likes me.

Friends casually point their pipe guns at friends, right?

I like Strong the Super Mutant too, but I left him at my biggest farm so that I could travel with an android who has been programmed with the personality of a pre-war detective. He carries around two packs of cigarettes even though he physically can’t smoke, but he is observant and I thought he might help me find my lost son. Androids are not very popular in the Wasteland and people keep saying rude things about synthetic beings; my friend Nick likes it so much when I argue back that he has really opened up about his past. I wonder if I can date him.

A robot boyfriend would be fun, but I have my eye on a sassy journalist who lives in what used to be Fenway Park and is now the largest city in the Wasteland. She has offered to come with me on my adventures but I’m nervous–what if we hang out and she doesn’t like me? Besides, inviting her to find my missing son sounds a bit intense for a first date.

April 5

I now have 13 farms!

Most of them are just small settlements with 2-4 farmers; I make sure they have enough food, water, beds, and machine gun turrets to stay reasonably happy, then leave them to their own devices. But I’ve picked up a few really promising locations: a cluster of nice houses inside a wall (although this is frustrating for the two-headed cows, who can’t seem to get through the gate); a crumbling fort with enough built-in defenses to protect my largest food and water supplies; a modest farm that just happens to include a ton of beachfront acreage and great view.

You can see downtown Boston and the airport from the melon patch. It happened to be a beautiful day when I visited. Sometimes there are foggy, green radioactive storms by the sea.

For these, I build a satellite dish to attract settlers and a tent to attract the occasional trader: a weapon girl, an armor guy, a shady doctor, and my favorite, a po-faced woman named Trashcan Carla who sells junk.

I’m still traveling with the robot detective. Most recently, we stumbled upon an underground organization that believes in freeing and protecting synths (i.e. androids), so my detective pal is thrilled and I don’t have the heart to ask him to follow up on my son’s kidnapping. It turns out that there is a LOT of anti-synth sentiment out there, y’all. In fact, the walled-in settlement of nice houses I mentioned actually belonged to an anti-synth faction. I accidentally found their secret lair before I found the settlement, so I’d already cleared out a bunch of fanatics and freed a bunch of synths from their sewer hideout. By the time I located the walled settlement, which people on my other farms had told me was “a real nice place,” everyone in it ran out to fight me. I won, which is how I got the settlement.

Unfortunately, corpses take a really long time to disappear in the Wasteland, so all their Stepford Wife-looking bodies are still strewn around the gate. I tried dragging them into a bush so as not to upset the new inhabitants of the settlement, but when I stopped by to upgrade their defenses, some of the corpses had moved themselves back out into the open.

April 6

I have started traveling with a man (or synth; not sure) named Deacon. He is a very unsettling companion: he lies about literally everything, especially his own origins, and he wears a different disguise every time we travel, so I’m constantly startled by the mad scientist or Minuteman or greaser creeping behind me. I tolerate this because I am a very sneaky fighter–I like to hide behind things and pick off raiders before they get close–and if he likes me enough, he will teach me how to improve my sneaking skills. So far this is going great! Not only does Deacon like it when I take actions that support his organization (the aforementioned synth underground railroad), he also likes it when I pick locks and one-shot enemies before they even see me. Once, while we were hiding behind the rusted husk of a delivery truck, the little computer I always wear strapped to my left arm lit up. Deacon admires you, it said.

Really? None of my other companions admire me. I turned to speak with him about it, and he started to tell me how much he appreciates me when a bullet pinged his shoulder–guess we stopped hiding to have this heart to heart. I will have to follow up with him later.

Before you ask: I have googled it and I cannot date Deacon.

April 9

I have gotten really good at making friends! Deacon, as it happens, was super impressed with my stealth skills and didn’t take too long to teach me his own. Now that I am so good at sneaking, I no longer need to take him on quests–although I will eventually, when it’s time to seriously commit to the underground railroad. I’m not ready to do that yet; I am very close to having enough experience to open up trade routes between my settlements, and Farms Come First.

Farms before harms? Farms before charms. Settlements before… never mind.

Me, chatting with Trashcan Carla (not pictured) in my first and biggest farm. You can see one of the bombed-out houses from before the war, and one of the new Brutalist cubes I’ve been building to shelter my farmers. It doesn’t have windows but it DOES have electricity!

I decided to spend more time with sourpuss Maccready, as I heard he could teach me how to shoot with greater accuracy, but I wasn’t sure how I would win him over. To my surprise, he was ready to share his personal mission with me next time we talked. As it happens, he greatly admires my workshop, so every time I build a new bunker on the ruined foundations of my old suburb, he warms up to me a little bit.

I helped him neutralize some of the gang members he used to work for, but he’s not quite ready to teach me, so I’m going to see if the spunky journalist I mentioned earlier is willing to share her charisma knowledge with me. I have a couple of activities planned that I think she’ll like: we’re going to save a couple of the smaller settlements from raider attacks, then stop by an underground vault and see if anyone needs any help. If we have time, maybe I’ll take her on one of my synth railroad quests. When we first met she had just published a negative story about synths, so I was worried she would be put off my hobbies, but it turns out that she just doesn’t like secret synths, like the mayor of Diamond City, and otherwise supports synth freedom. Still questionable synth politics, imho, but she is friends with my robot detective companion.

April 23

Welp, I found out what happened to my son, although I can’t say I know why.

[SPOILERS]

After providing my robot detective friend some details about what I remembered from the day my son was kidnapped while I briefly flickered awake in cryogenesis, he identified a probable suspect and enlisted my dog to help track him. (Side note: my dog is back!! I thought he was missing but he is just a very good boy and waiting for us to catch up with him at the kidnapper’s hideout.) We found the kidnapper, he tried to kill us, we killed him instead, and I thought that would be that except that he had some weird tech implanted in his brain. We took it to a neurologist for examination.

Unexpectedly, she plugged both me and the detective into a machine to walk through the kidnapper’s mind.

I learned… some unexpected things, including that he had a wife and daughter who were killed by raiders, a tragic event which Batmanned him into mercenary work blah blah blah. I also learned that after he kidnapped my infant son at the behest of a shadowy organization called The Institute, HE RAISED MY SON. For like 10 years. When my son was still a child, an Institute synth appeared and gave the kidnapper new orders, and teleported WITH MY SON–presumably to the Institute, a place that so far no one has been able to find.

There’s nothing I can do right now. Which is probably for the best, because all my new friends are crowding in with demands. The detective wants me to help him track down a criminal from before the war. A sentient utility robot I found wants me to find her a bipedal body to carry around her curious mind. (The neurologist will help with this.) And a giant metal airship just flew over the Commonwealth yesterday, apparently en route to the Brotherhood of Steel, a sort of anti-synth militia I’ve been casually helping out for weapons and cash even though my Railroad friends hate them. So, apparently, do most other residents of the Commonwealth–all the street guards in every settlement are complaining about the Brotherhood and their dumb airship. No wonder they couldn’t find anyone else to help out with their quests.

More like BOTHERhood, amirite?

April 29

So, I have a girlfriend now!

Her name is Curie. She is a scientist with a charming French accent. She likes learning things and helping people. Like me, she’s a bit of a scavenger and tends to pick up loose ammo and weapons she finds on the field. Also like me, she spent 200 years living in an underground bunker–although she spent her time studying infectious diseases and their cures rather than chilling out in a cryocell. We met when I visited one of the Wasteland’s only functioning vaults; she was conducting her studies in a concealed second bunker that not even the vault residents knew about, but after two centuries she had a massive case of cabin fever.

After we traveled together for awhile, Curie confided that she felt her scientific research was inhibited by her hardware. This surprised me–you’d think that a utility bot’s three eyes, three arms, and hover jets would make them superior scientists! But Curie insisted we look into the possibility of installing her operating system on a human processor. That turned out to be… not possible, but a humanoid synth body offered the upgrade she was looking for.

Here she is wearing a dress we found somewhere (which I armored up with ballistic weave) and reading a newspaper she definitely found on the street.

As a synth she’s been a great companion: she always has a spare stimpak for me, and it’s pretty amazing to watch her run full-speed at an alpha deathclaw with nothing but an electric knife. But I didn’t realize she had developed emotional complexity until after we got back from a trip deep into the wasteland, near where the bomb landed.

It’s an absolute mess out there, crawling with deathclaws and withered ghouls, and there is actually a community of peaceful but deeply disturbed individuals who live in the bomb crater and call themselves the Children of Atom. We’d crawled through this deadly glowing desert to find a Super Mutant who could tell us how to get into the Institute and find my son, but unfortunately getting to the informant was the easy part. Feeling unprepared to infiltrate the secret Institute base, I took Curie to a couple of my farms to deal with minor dustups with raiders and whatnot.

Then my wrist computer sent me a message.
Curie idolizes you.

We were in the middle of a hot foundry surrounded by the wreckage of the jumped up raiders who call themselves The Forged, so I waited until we reached a safe place to talk to her about it. And now we’re dating!

May 1

Freakin Brotherhood of Steel!

You KNOW how important my farms are to me. I now have 22 farms with populations between 2 and 30 residents. I have been able to link many of them with supply lines, and some even have permanent traders, which gives the settlers someplace to hang out when the sun goes down. Fewer of them are calling for aid, as I’ve become a better weaponsmith and have outfitted them with laser turrets and catapults. They seem, on the whole, happy.

Now, I realized that my somewhat mercenary relationship with the Brotherhood would be complicated by my relationships with the Minutemen–the original farms I rescued–and the Railroad. But curiosity got the better of me, and I decided I wanted to see the inside of that giant airship they parked over Boston airport. To my surprise, my Brotherhood contact had access to a sort of mini-helicopter thing, and we took a ride across the Wasteland to meet his boss on the airship. This was, admittedly, kind of cool.

I got comfortable exploring the airship, and even offered to help out a few knights and scribes–I can always use the caps, after all. The quartermaster asked me to see about securing crops for the Brotherhood from one of my farms–specifically, the farm run by ghouls. The ghoul farm was slow to join my settlement network in the first place–understandably so, since many wastelanders tend to shoot ghouls on sight just in case they are the feral kind that attack. But their farm has a thriving crop of both edible and medicinal plants, a clean water source, and a ton of defense turrets that I set up after a particularly egregious Super Mutant attack. I figured they could spare the supplies.

I went down to talk to their leader about it. He agreed grumpily, implying that he didn’t have a choice. My wrist computer lit up, indicating that I’d fulfilled the mission. The Brotherhood now controls this location, it added. Dang!

I haven’t been back to visit, but I can see the stats: the settlement has been low in morale since the Super Mutant attack, but their happiness level has continued to drop despite their plentiful resources and the new shops and jukebox I added. Freakin Brotherhood!

May 9

Soooo…. I found my son.

[SPOILERS again, and pretty much here on out]

The Railroad helped me figure out a way to infiltrate the Institute using their own teleportation technology. The idea was that I would pretend to be a synth myself, and try to maintain a cover. But when I arrived, a man’s voice greeted me over an intercom. He knew who I was and he wanted to talk. He was impressed, he said, by the lengths I’d gone to find him.

The elderly director of the Institute, the man that Institute denizens call Father because his DNA formed the basis for the humanlike synthetic beings that walk the wasteland, claims to be the little boy that was stolen from our vault. While I was in cryo, he grew up and grew old. Now he wants me to help him make the Institute a thriving sanctuary for science.

I have some hesitations, as you might imagine! Essentially working for my son, who is now my elder, is only one of them.

But the Railroad wanted me to remain embedded in the Institute while they figure out a way to free the Institute synths that want to escape (in the Institute, a synth is seen as an instrument, so the free-thinkers among the synths tend to want to leave despite the poor opinion most of the wasteland has of them). I decided to run a few errands for the Institute, hoping not to exacerbate tensions among the wasteland factions.

Mostly, this worked. The Institute operates in secret, and so does the Railroad, so I managed to appear to hunt escaped synths while actually helping them get away.

But then… freakin Brotherhood.

I accompanied an Institute scientist on what I thought was a harmless fetch quest, but the Brotherhood of Steel wanted the same nuclear power source we did. Taking it away from them meant earning an army of armor-clad enemies. This wasn’t such a loss, I reasoned–I couldn’t get behind their weird obsession with tech and was only working with them for caps.

On the downside, I had been trying to soften up a Paladin and I thought it had been going well, since he kept stopping our journeys to tell me stories about his life before the Brotherhood. But when I returned to my first and largest farm to stamp out a small Super Mutant attack, the settlement siren kept ringing after the turrets and I had eliminated any mutant threat. I ignored it, and went about my business upgrading armor and brewing chemicals. But then I heard the sound of lasers, and realized that the Paladin was gunning for me and that everyone else (twenty-six settlers, including three of my best friends and two girlfriends) was gunning for him.

RIP Paladin, you idiot. I’m sorry you didn’t finish telling your dumb story before I got mixed up in the Institute–I feel like we might have been able to work out our differences–but at least I still have the settlers and the Railroad on my side.

May 17

As soon as the kettle boiled over with the Brotherhood, they launched an attack on the Railroad. So some Railroad friends and I stole one of their helicopters, dropped a lot of bombs in their (hydrogen-based!!!) airship, and peaced out.

I hadn’t planned to gloat about this: while the Brotherhood (Botherhood!!) definitely escalated this conflict, the faction war is ultimately the result of my backfired attempt to play all sides.

All the same, as I was going about Commonwealth business and clearing out another shoreline settlement location a day or two later, I couldn’t help noticing that the airship wreckage made an impressive sight even at a great distance.

With their numbers diminished by the Brotherhood attack, the Railroad was anxious to finish off the Institute as well. This placed me in an awkward position–my son, who everyone calls Father, had named me his successor as Institute Director and invited me to join him in life underground, served by synths in a gleaming city far removed from the troubled Wasteland. It’s not that he didn’t know about my ties to the synth rights organization or my life on the surface. It’s just that he thought I would take his side, given the option.

I didn’t.

So now, technically, we’ve won. The Brotherhood and the Institute are dispersed. The Railroad is no longer hunted by the Institute, which is now a sinkhole flooded by the polluted waters of the Charles River. They focus now on smuggling synths safely away from bigoted Wasteland settlements. The Minutemen continue growing my farms and clearing out raider dens. The creepy Children of Atom mostly stay in their crater.

But I feel like there still more to do. There are still locations in the Wasteland I haven’t discovered, where presumably I’ll find more pre-war magazines and bobbleheads for my collections. I am still building farms. I’ve started building cabins and well-lit merchant counters in the remains of a drive-thru movie lot, and I’ve just discovered a spacious abandoned marina where even my current companion, a salty former chem addict, admired the view.

The marina is all ramshackle walls and concrete, perfect for the garish sculptures and fountains I now have enough resources to build. It doesn’t include much undeveloped land. But then, you don’t need much to grow a tato.

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