As promised, this week we talk about the atomic dimwits. Remember when I talked about the ghouls in the DC ruins at both the museum and beneath the White House? And how the Super Mutants would be one of their main trading partners? Let’s add to that.
Thanks to a random discussion at the No Mutants Allowed forums, I had a new idea, one involving an existing – and incredibly stupid as it currently stands – faction: The Church of Atom.
Allow me to start by saying I don’t necessarily think the Church of Atom faction itself is stupid. It’s how they’re portrayed that’s stupid. Especially the likes of their radiation immunity, something that is never explained. Or why they’re so widespread in Fallout 4. Or why they’re automatically hostile (eh, could say the same about most Bethesda factions, I guess, gotta have them targets to shoot).
Anyway, my idea for this faction is thus: they’re a cult who sprang up several decades ago in the Boston Commonwealth area (yes, this will span both 3 and 4, I’ll talk more about them in 4 when I start the Reconstructing series for it). Cults generally worship something, and like in the base games they effectively worship atomic energy.
However, unlike Beth’s dumbass cultists who literally treat it as a religion, I’m thinking something more along the lines of the Followers of the Apocalypse. They’re cult-like, kind of nuts in some ways, have some weird as hell rituals, and certainly treat atomic power with an almost religious fervour and reverence. Okay.
But they’re also made up of people who understand nuclear power and weapons. Scientists, technicians, mechanics, all sorts, alongside regular folk who provide the more basic day to day amenities. In the Boston area they’ll be pretty big and pretty powerful, notably through their understanding of technology.
They’re also a pretty decent sort overall, willing to help people get old tech working and so on (basically the east coast’s answer to the Followers), but are also extremely interested in anything to do with nuclear power. They’ll use energy weapons, be capable of producing fission batteries, microfusion cells, and other useful tech, and generally be a force to be reckoned with.
Moving to the DC region, the Atomists (nice shortening of their name for convenience) have sent out some small expeditionary parties to scout out other areas and determine whether there is anything of value.
Remember I talked about the squandered power station location a few parts back? Let’s do something with that. The Atomists have found this amazing pre-war facility and are figuring out what it is. It’s no longer a coal plant like the base game, nope, now it’s a near-complete experimental nuclear reactor. It’ll also have to be underground and heavily protected/sealed off to ensure it’s in one piece after 200 years.
Taking a technology originally pioneered in the 60s at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee, we can say the experimental technology in this reactor is based on the thorium-salt method, using liquid fuels rather than solid. Basically an alternate tech forerunner to fusion that was shelved when the superior tech was developed.
(It’s a real thing, incidentally, and something we should be implementing in our world… if we weren’t so monumentally stupid. FYI, China, India, and Indonesia are all building out LFTR while we instead focus on moronic shit like solar and wind… yeah.)
In any case, we now have a currently inactive but broadly feasible reactor, a faction with an interest in nuclear power, and a location that’s no longer so criminally squandered, so now it’s time to develop it a bit.
First, remember I said Harold would be given a new role? Say hello to Ambassador Harold, here to check the east coast out and see if new trade relations can be fostered!
He’ll be involved with our version of the Silk Road, though not directly travelling with the caravans except for this one trip east; he’s far too old and decrepit now, instead taking more of an admin/public relations role, something lightweight and enjoyable in his twilight years.
Harold is here to see whether his old pals the Gecko Plant ghouls can export some of their knowledge and skills in return for useful technologies and anything else of value. He’ll be snooping around the reactor when the player meets him, trying to figure out a way inside and underground. With some help, we head inside and… immediately run into the Atomists.
They’ve already arrived and are checking the place out, getting super excited over the idea of a nuclear technology they’ve never heard of before, and we’ll be able to chat to them a bit about where they’re from, why they’re here, and how we can help. Harold introduces himself and hits it off immediately; the Atomists are thrilled to hear there are successful communities on the west coast, and would love to be put into contact with them.
That’s our initial meeting (one of several possible ones). So how can we tie this location into the wider world? First, Eighton is looking to expand, and there are factories and facilities around the area that could, with some hard work and copious amounts of power, be brought back to life. A nuclear reactor would certainly help there.
Second, I was thinking something like this would actually require some infrastructure that no longer exists; especially industrial-grade cabling/wires to transport the power to other settlements. So one of the player’s major quests will revolve around securing a source of wood (let’s say… a lumber mill on the edge of the map?), and large amounts of good quality cabling.
The player will have to find stores to plunder in local factories and the like, or potentially even ask the mutants to help. With their biosteel fabrication, we could have them work on something similar that can be used for transferring energy, maybe even say it’s considerably more energy efficient than pre-war materials were capable of, meaning less overall conversion loss during transit.
This would be more of a long-term project, but that’s fine. We’d simply get the work started, sort out the factions involved (via quests the player will complete), and then show ending slides to tell the player that their actions had meaningful consequences.
The slow process of building out sturdy wooden poles, connecting the cables, and finally providing power to the various communities would be covered, and that the power lines travel the same roads as the caravan traders; the safer, well-travelled ones.
With power flowing across the wastes, Big Town’s bio fuel would be diverted to new uses, such as mechanised caravans, and a side effect of the liquid-thorium reactor (running a gas turbine, not steam) would be the effective creation of additional hydrocarbons, eventually taking over from Big Town (technically a negative for them, but that’s the point, no ending will be perfect for everyone).
Getting back to the Atomists briefly, they’ll be interested in researching anything they can to do with nuclear power and the effects it has on various subjects, including people (radiation, etc.), so we can have them work with the Wight House ghouls to research cell regeneration, cell degradation, and the overall effects of radiation on the human body.
A large community of ghouls gives them a decent-sized sample group, something they couldn’t obtain at home because there are no major ghoul communities (other than the Slog, but that’s maybe a dozen people at most). Basically researching anything that could be beneficial to medicine in general, but also how to alleviate suffering in ghouls… including potentially Harold.
They’d also have equipment for dealing with radiation (rad suits, plentiful radaway, rad-x, etc.), and would therefore be happy to routinely wander around the ruins of DC. This gives us a second faction to trade with the ghouls in some form or fashion, and potentially a way for us to have them meet the Super Mutants.
And there would of course be the usual slew of negative options like sabotaging the nuclear plant, or letting the antagonists come in and claim it, or even having the Atomists ally with the antagonists, who’d be very interested in people with intimate knowledge of nuclear reactors.
The canon ending, however, used as the basis for Fallout 4, would be that the power station was brought online, the world thrived, the Atomists started regularly moving between their home of Boston and the DC area, and most importantly of all, Boston itself became a new stopping point for the caravans travelling our own Silk Road.
And done! Next week I’ll be coming back to the slaves and slavers and seeing how they can more firmly be tied to each other and the wider world.