J.E. Sawyer still talks about Fallout: New Vegas

Discussion in 'NMA News and Information' started by Kilus, Nov 30, 2015.

  1. Kilus

    Kilus Not Australian Orderite

    May 3, 2003
    J.E. Sawyer was the project director and lead designer on Fallout: New Vegas(he was also a lead designer of Interplay's Fallout 3/Van Buren). It has been over 5 years since that game's release and J.E. Sawyer still finds time to answer questions on his Tumblr page. Here is a selection of his answers:

    On 'letting go' being a theme:

    The future of the NCR:

    Why Caesar's Legion isn't grey:

    On skill consolidation and differentiation:

    On New Vegas being flat:

    I would just like to thank J.E. Sawyer for his time talking about Fallout minutiae with fans. Check out his blog for more New Vegas answers as well as a ton of Pillars of Eternity/general rpg answers.
    • [Like] [Like] x 15
  2. DerGogan

    DerGogan It Wandered In From the Wastes

    Sep 21, 2014
    I just love this guy. #nohomo
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  3. Mr Fish

    Mr Fish ...I Remember...

    Sep 11, 2010
    This is a big rant about our lord and saviour J.E Sawyer.
    Yeah I still consider Legion to be a very dark shade of grey, regardless of what he says. IIRC they said prior to the game's release that the Legion was going to be a dark shade of grey and they had planned for content on the other side of the river as well which had to be abandoned as they didn't have time to develop that side of the river (it's amazing what they managed to create with the time they had, imagine if they had had another year, then we might've been able to see the other side of the river as well). I also remember that they commented on how they planned to portray the two main factions, NCR and Legion. NCR would come across as being "the good guys" who have a few problems here and there but the further into the game you went the more skeletons started to fall out of their closet. Whereas with the Legion it was meant to be a big impact right off the bat, Nipton. Where the Legion is shown at their most brutal, vicious and cold-hearted but once you reached their lands (on the other side of the river) then you'd see them in a better light. You'd see that while the frontier is a hell-hole the lands they control are --in their own way-- pretty functional, stabilized, prosperous, and successful.

    This just sounds like he's stopped caring. I remember him explaining things about the Legion way back, trying to make them seem like not so much of a pitch black choice on formspring or whatever it was called. I dunno, it just feels like he wanted to explain more about the Legion as much as he could without just going all fanfic about it way back but now he's stopped caring and he just goes "eh fuck it, they evil yo". Like, here's an example of when he used to actually 'care': http://www.nma-fallout.com/showthread.php?198259-J-E-Sawyer-on-the-Legion-and-post-endgame-play And another good thing to explain would have been the "synthesis" Caesar wanted out of winning Vegas and establishing it as the new capital, they never went into detail what this was in the ending slides and that was a really bad decision on their part as it could've helped explain why Legion could be a proper grey choice. Instead, all we see is Caesar entering the strip and taking it, the end. So the least they could have done would have been to explain the synthesis of "taking the best out of NCR and Legion and shedding the worst to form a new society that can last" (paraphrasing here) post-launch in something like the link I just gave.

    He can go on and on about how they represent this and how they're a metaphor of that and draw parallels between that thing over there but all I see is their failure at writing a slaver army that actually got a selling point as a morally grey faction and his admission to it. Sure, it can still be a metaphor or parallel or whatever of humanities capacity for cruelty and shit but that's 'all' it'll be.

    I'm probably being too harsh. But the way I see it, if the Legion isn't a morally ambiguous choice then it isn't really a choice at all except for "EVIL!" characters. And "EVIL!" characters are just dumb. Let me put into context here; Let's say you have the option of helping a cat out of a tree for a little girl then you can either help the cat down and not agree to a reward (which is a reasonable choice), you could offer to help the cat down but you'd want a little bit of a reward for it as it may be a lot of work and you're taking the time out of your day to help a fucking cat down a tree (which again is a reasonable choice), you could explain to the girl that it is a freaking cat and that it'll come down from the tree when it feels like it and she shouldn't worry (which is a reasonable choice), you could even snarl at the kid and throw a rock at the branch it is sitting on to scare it down because your character is pissed off or frustrated or whatever (even this is a reasonable choice) or you could shoot the cat, handcuff the girl to something nearby, fuck the cats corpse and then force feed it down her throat.

    That last choice isn't really a choice at all to me. It's the lowest form of writing to just be "EVIL!" as that offers zero nuance to anything. Sure, if you're RPing as a complete and total psychopath then that last choice would be great to have, but why encourage players to RP as either satan or jesus? Shouldn't RPing be more nuanced than that? Shouldn't moral ambiguity offer more than just a paragon of humanity or the devil's reject? Yes, Caesar is more nuanced than that. Yes, the Legion is useful as a metaphor of humanity but as a roleplaying option? As a roleplaying option there is barely a single character that would want to help the Legion reach power. There are tons of characters that would want to team up with House. Tons of characters that would want to see NCR stabilize the area. Tons of characters that would see the need for anarchy or want the power of a robot army to control this stretch of land. But how many characters actually want to help the Legion?

    And I'm not saying every single faction or character have to be morally ambiguous. Some people are just downright evil pieces of shit. But to have an 'entire nation' like that --a nation which people willingly travel into to trade stuff with. A nation that 'protects' its denizens and travellers. A nation that even a ghoul like Raul points out how much better is now in Arizona and that the Legion ain't that bad-- just seems dumb to me. Oh no, we can't possibly make a slaver army led by a man with a god-complex a morally ambiguous choice, how ever would we be able to do that? If the entire nation was full of baby-eaters then 'no one' would be saying 'anything' good about it 'ever'. Yet there are characters that do comment on good things about the Legion or the land they control.

    On that note, I don't consider goody-goody-two-shoes to be a real choice either. It's cartoonish.

    So Legion isn't grey according to Sawyer. Yeah well his previous comments pre and post launch along with a bunch of hints in the game would beg to differ. For some reason he just doesn't care enough to try and defend it as a grey choice or try to expand on them any more. The Legion is a grey choice. All we need is to actually explore their lands first hand or to have a lead dev explain things about it in detail as they failed to do that in the main game for various reasons. But since it is too late for a DLC all we got left is a developer explaining things in detail post-development.

    I ain't asking for The Legion to become all lollipops and rainbows inside of their lands. I'm just asking for better moral ambiguity. And for a studio so praised for it I find their final design on the Legion to be a failure on their part or just lazy writing (apart from Caesar and Lanius) if they never really wanted to portray them as anything but "EVIL!". Accepting the outcome rather than working towards something better is the easy way out. And the easy way out is not always the right way out.

    Legion is grey to me, they just fucked up explaining 'how' they are grey for the general audience. Because of how they ended up there are tons of people that don't delve into the lore behind the Legion and just accepts them as being "the villains" and don't see anything but Nipton. Even I struggle at times to see why a character I'm RPing would want to join the Legion. So to me Sawyer is wrong on this. They are/should be grey, all we need is someone with merit explaining why. One easy solution would be a mod. I know Sawyer is busy with other things but he created a mod for FNV that altered gameplay with various tweaks and rebalancing. So why not create a mod that expands on the Legion endings and explain what the synthesis is? That could very well be enough if it is done right. And coming from someone at Obsidian that mod would carry a lot more weight than it would if I were to create it. If I created it it'd just be fanfic. Or he could just do something like Formspring, where he produces an official lore-update that is to be taken as canon (think of it as All Roads, All Roads is canon even though it isn't in any game) where he explains more about Legion, good and bad.

    But I guess a super-evil faction is more interesting than a darker shade of grey faction. After all, he's Sawyer, the guy who was lead designer and director of the game so he what he says has far more merit than what I say. So if he says they aren't a grey choice then I guess they aren't a grey choice. Why bother asking for more when it is easier to settle for what we ended up with. It's not like it'd improve FNV if CL became a proper grey choice, even if said improvement would be needed to be found outside of the game... Like All Roads.

    Yknow what sucks about being a fan of the true Fallouts? Being a fan of a faction that the majority despises, as that makes you a niche within a niche. I sure am glad that J.E Sawyer bestowed us this bit of information. I'm not bitter at all.


    I guess my new favorite faction is the Boomers. Cause at least they can bomb all the other choices to death. Might go with a bit of Ulysses and fuck the world up with nukes too. Maybe Avellone was right, it's time to just start all over again if our choices are evil mc'evil yo, creepy guy in a tube, boring NCR and weird twitchy robot. I mean, I guess the Independence ending is anarchy too but it isn't anarchy enough. Gotta blast the world. Purge it of inferior choices. Boomers for life and Ulysses is my waifu. I don't even know why I'm still typing this shit. I'll stop now.
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  4. RangerBoo

    RangerBoo Vault Fossil

    Jun 15, 2015
    Sorry but anybody that goes out of their way to kill, enslave, abuse and sexually abuse women and children(and show pride in it), especially in the name of their petulant "God-King", are nothing but immoral jack-offs in my mind. I read somewhere before that the Legion was always meant to be a faction for evil karma characters but unlike the raiders or the minor enemy factions in Fallout 3 and 4 there was a purpose for their madness. Also I always found Ulysses WAY too preachy and self righteous for my liking. Which is why I blew his head off with my custom shotgun. :newevil:
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2015
  5. Mr Fish

    Mr Fish ...I Remember...

    Sep 11, 2010
    You're proving my point. Because of their depiction you can't see them as anything else but evil incarnate. How is that a good thing?

    You can't see them as being anything but evil. What I want, what I've wanted ever since they announced they were going to do DLC's, was for the Legion to be given some kind of moral ambiguity that is unquestionable. One that forces players to challenge their beliefs about whether it is more important to be ethical or whether it is more important for humanity to have a stable future. Where even though you disagree with the Legion on every conceivable moral standpoint you have to admit that from a pragmatic/logical/big picture perspective they do got a point. (You don't have to agree with someone just because you admit that they do have a point. For example, I admit that if someone were to kill off every single muslim in the world then we wouldn't have many islamic terrorists and shit around, but I most certainly do not agree with it as a solution to the problem. I admit that there is a point to it. I just find it to be extremely inhumane and genocidal.)

    Wouldn't that be better than what we got? I mean, why would you want to settle for this?

    The way I see it it is the synthesis that is the most important factor for the Legion to be morally grey. At year 2281 they're pretty damn brutal. But! What if Caesar succeeded? What if his synthesis truly is a better vision for mankind? Where he takes the good out of NCR and Legion and sheds the bad? Where the reason why you should side with the Legion is not for what they are in the present (year 2281) but for what they'll become in the future. What if the synthesis is actually a pretty good thing, it's just that it will take a couple of more decades for it to be finalized?

    What the synthesis is? I have no idea. It's not up to me to decide it. But if there's any key factor that would make the Legion morally ambiguous it is that. Help the evil slaver army because the megalomaniac in charge actually got a point and in the future his vision will become real if you help him, and that vision is for the betterment of nearly everyone.

    Better than what we got now.

    Personally I'd like to think of the synthesis as a giant orgy where the replicator machines from Dead Money caters to everyone's desires. No lack of resources, no lack of food or energy, no lack of anything. Robots do all of the work and the humans just spend their time enjoying each other and everything's perfect forever. Barnaky will fear going to the west when he hears the distant moans from the west. The setting of the sun and the dawn of lust. Yum! Sadly, like I said, it is not up to me to decide what the synthesis is. It's probably a good thing as I doubt "massive orgy" would be what other envisioned Caesar's vision to be. Sawyer could decide though, if he actually 'wanted' to do it.

    Maybe the reason why he ain't doing something like that is because he's not allowed to go around declaring lore any longer as he's no longer working on a Fallout game and he isn't part of the company that does own it.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2015
  6. RangerBoo

    RangerBoo Vault Fossil

    Jun 15, 2015
    Well I have the game guide and it doesn't really paint the Legion as morally grey either. The man is a fraud who is plagiarizing history and trying to remake the world in his image as its new God-King. Mixed in with the narcissism, homophobia, sexism and slavery I and many others can't see the Legion as anything but evil. Reading the Van Buren documents the Legion were also portrayed as just as cruel and fanatical as they are in New Vegas just with the sexism toned down a bit. I would have like to see the Legion expanded on more in New Vegas just to show that there is a purpose and plan to everything they are doing as well as get their subjects view of them but even then I have a strong feeling that most people would have turned tail and ran right back to either the NCR, Mr. House or Yes Man.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2015
  7. Bubba Zanetti

    Bubba Zanetti I know what I'm doing

    Oct 6, 2015
    All we get is, "civilization, unforgiving as it were, finally came to the Mojave Wasteland."

    I guess Caesar gets his wish--it sounds good--but it's pretty damn vague. I love the Legion, but there is way too much reading between the lines with them.

    According to Sawyer himself, subjects under the Legion already have this in the lands back east. Again, it would have been really nice to have been shown this as opposed to merely being told.

    Personally, I always envisioned the synthesis as being mainly about progress. The Legion truly becomes a legitimate nation state, Caesar begins to relax more of his stringent policies regarding tech and medicine perhaps, and the resources of the Mojave help catapult the region and beyond into a new era of civilization.

    Thing about the Legion, specifically the rank-and-file, is they are evil. All of them, apart from Caesar himself, are nothing more than nameless raider/tribal mooks--cardboard cutout filler bad guys synonymous with this type of setting--who have been refashioned and repurposed to serve their master's will.

    What he's done is taken these thugs, reformatted them with education and a purpose, and pointed them away from his subjects and in the direction of his enemies instead.

    We really needed more Dale Bartons and Raul the Ghouls to talk to, needed to see some of those safe, productive, and efficient societies on the other side of the Colorado in order to get the whole picture.

    I'm not so sure.

    I remember conversations with Cass where she mentions some caravans are already signing up with the Legion because they were sick of raiders and NCR extortion tactics. She then immediately proposed a scenario where entire towns and villages could very well be willing to do the same, which almost leads me to believe something like this could have been included in the game at some point.

    Indeed, people can be willing to give up freedom for security when the alternative is worse.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2015
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  8. Proletären

    Proletären Look, Ma! Two Heads!

    Mar 15, 2012
    I guess the legion is comparable to ISIS or similar groups.
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  9. Bubba Zanetti

    Bubba Zanetti I know what I'm doing

    Oct 6, 2015
    Most definitely.

    Ragtag sensibilities, penchant for brutality, rigid belief systems, use of propaganda and terror as psy-ops, etc.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2015
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  10. Earth

    Earth Vault Senior Citizen

    Apr 7, 2013
    I like the Legion. They're morally disturbing and I hope I never have to deal with anyone like them, ever, but they do throw a light on ancient and medieval warfare. Today we see them as evil, because they're a bunch of genocidal, slaver rapists, but a thousand years ago that's what we were (literally, almost all of our ancestors). The Greeks, Romans, Persians, Vikings, Saxons, Mongolians, Normans, Turks, Conquistadors: all civilisations built on conquest and destruction. ISIS looks so similar to the Legion because it's one of the few modern examples of groups similar to those I mentioned above. Basically a buncha marauding Vikings with guns. At the same time our history celebrates the cultures that sprung from these conquests. America itself was built in the exact same way the Legion builds their empire. Today America is (relatively) peaceful, but if you'd asked a Native American 300 years ago how they felt about "America", they'd have told you about the conquest, rape, genocide, slavery and violence they were experiencing.

    So who knows what the Legion could become. Maybe it could become more civilised in the long run. I'm sure many people would say that the world would be a better place today if the Roman Empire hadn't collapsed, because although it was a civilisation built on Fascist dictatorships, warfare and slavery, it was more stable than the Dark Ages, where Europe basically sat around doing diddly-squat for a thousand years.

    I guess the problem for the Legion is that they come up against the NCR, a culture most like our own in the Western world. A world built on democracy, freedom of speech, capitalism, individualism and human rights. So they look pretty nasty in comparison (as they rightly should) but we never see the world the Legion was built upon. Maybe the Legion is better for the people in it than whatever life they had before? Raul seemed to think so (and because he's voiced by Danny Trejo, and is generally awesome anyway, I'm inclined to believe him). So the Legion looks bad next to the NCR. But the warring tribal cultures it was built on? Maybe not so much.

    And as we're seeing with ISIS, some people will reject the "NCR" (as in, Western) world and values for the Fascist, fanatical, patriarchal, slave built civilisation the Legion offers (the scary thing is, these people are signing up for the kind of violent conqueror world we see with the Legion, not the ideal society Caesar himself apparently has in mind. Then again, I assume ISIS does have their own idea of an ideal society that they're building towards).

    So I dunno if "grey" or "ambiguous" are the right words to use for the Legion, but, as silly as they are in the Roman getup, realistic might be a better word. History has certainly set a precedent for their kind of activities.
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  11. Bubba Zanetti

    Bubba Zanetti I know what I'm doing

    Oct 6, 2015

    Greek civilization, one of the greatest this world has seen, got its start conquering and assimilating lesser groups. America the beautiful was built upon bloodshed and the backs of slaves.

    Bottom line is, when it comes to forging a nation on this fucked up earth, someone is going to get screwed no matter what. It's simply the way of the human race and it will never, ever change despite the best wishes of idealistic dreamers.

    That's why history repeats itself. That's why there is nothing new under the sun. That's why the more things change, the more they stay the same.

    That's why war never changes.

    With Caesar at the helm--Ed, not Lanius, the Legion will definitely become a full-fledged empire.

    To what extant, and how long it lasts depends on how how quickly and effectively Ed can settle the Legion and transfer their focus from him onto the "idea of Rome itself."

    I for one would love to see him pull it off.

    Even without a glimpse behind Legion lines, they still look better compared to the NCR.

    NCR's so-called values are a smokescreen and amount to nothing more than a bad joke when they are struggling to feed and protect their own citizens while desperately trying to keep their bloated monstrosity of a Republic from splitting apart at the seams.

    All the hubbub about freedom and democracy rings pretty hollow when you're being exploited by corrupt officials who don't even have the decency or wherewithal to offer adequate protection form raiders or hostile wildlife after bleeding you dry.

    ISIS knows what they're doing, targeting specific individuals for recruitment:


    The more Western citizens, particularly here in America, become disillusioned and disenfranchised and the longer we continue with our heavy-handed foreign policy under shitty leadership, there will be no shortage of recruits for ISIS any time soon.

    Take Caesar's diatribe about NCR and apply it to modern America, or the western world at large.

    Fits like a glove.
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  12. ZeaLitY

    ZeaLitY First time out of the vault

    May 11, 2010
    God, I miss New Vegas. I've played it so much, and aside from a couple story mods I'm waiting to get into, there's just nothing left for me to do in it. Fallout 4 feels like an empty world space in comparison, and even with weapon mods, New Vegas daresay had better weapon/armor variety and crafting (especially bulletwise; nothing brought me pleasure like leveling up enough to smith Match Load 50 MG rounds). Playing Honest Hearts and seeing Joshua Graham the first time will always stay with me. The moral choices in NV were leagues beyond Fallout 4's, and Lonesome Road, in retrospect, was an awesome way to have a final dungeon to the series, capped by wonderful ending slides that attempted to satisfactorily resolve the entire "war never changes" thing.

    I miss the Mojave.
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  13. naossano

    naossano Vault Fossil

    Oct 19, 2006
    The Legion doesn't have to be morally grey to be relevant into the story and to make valid points agains't their opponements.

    But, having much more personality and motive than a cartoony villain doesn't make Caesar good or even neutral. The guy is a self-centered manchild with no regard to the peoples and cultures he destroy to achieve his goals. Not only he doesn't care for them, but he also enjoy their pain quite often. And the legion is mostly driven by that guy, so he reflect on the whole faction. Lanius is even worst in some regard, as he only care about war and battlefield with little to no regard to life itself and those who want a peaceful one. Vulpes is a bit too shady to tell for certain what he really think. You can argue that footsoldier can be morally grey or even good, but they have little to no control into the Legion goals as long as Caesar, Lanius or Vulpes are in charge. Same could be said for Lucius. He just follows whoever is in charge.
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  14. Walpknut

    Walpknut This ghoul has seen it all

    Dec 30, 2010
    The Legion is Grey in my opinion (very very dark grey). But not because they are somehow righteous on any way, they don't really much give a shit about that. I think the part where many people fail to understand the Legion is that they extrapolate modern western values on them, even tho the Legion is actively discarding that.
    They are grey because they accomplish what they set out to do, bring order and productivity to their territories. Their regime is brutal and I wouldn't want to live under them, but you can't argue that they don't produce results. Most modern societies were built on top of similar atrocities. They aren't even "misogynists", they treat everyone like a tool rather than a person, males are conscripted into the army and are expected to kill themselves if their orders say they should, there isn't individual glory for them, there is only glory for the cause of the Legion. Even being a high ranking officer doesn't asure anything, as Joshua Graham's punishment shows. Caesar just wants results, and he will worry about a new Society blooming after he has unified enough territory. It's more a matter of utilitarianism vs humanism on wether you side with the Legion or don't.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2015
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  15. Crni Vuk

    Crni Vuk M4A3 Oldfag oTO Orderite

    Nov 25, 2008
    Depending where you live, you could even claim that our fortune and wealth in the free world is build on the exploitation of others. So yeah, the Legion might be more gray then evil.
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  16. PossibleCabbage

    PossibleCabbage Vault 22 Survivor

    Jul 2, 2015
    The Legion only needs to be grey enough to justify characters siding with them for reasons other than "this is an evil character". There are plenty of reasons from a Courier's backstory that might make them amenable to a Legion victory, including but not limited to- valuing security above all else, being thoroughly disenchanted with tribal life, and having had a bad experience with Raiders, drugs/drug dealers, or NCR corruption.

    I just wish that they had toned down the misogyny of the Legion, since it's difficult to justify a female character supporting them. Without the Daughters of Hecate to balance them out, the Legion should have been softened a bit in that regard.
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  17. Bubba Zanetti

    Bubba Zanetti I know what I'm doing

    Oct 6, 2015
    Maybe so.

    I always use female characters. My Courier was a hardened individual who felt the Legion had the best shot of carving out a society that could survive in the wasteland--that was her main reason for joining up with Caesar.

    As for the supposed misogyny, her attitude was "better them than me", especially since most of the enslaving happens to raiders and tribals--folks she couldn't care less about to begin with.

    Ironically, if you stick with the Legion to the end as a female and serve Caesar to the best of your character's abilities, you will see their attitudes towards women--or at the very least your woman--soften.

    More evidence of the Legion's flexibility, which leads me to believe Caesar could very well pull of his Pax Romana once he settles these clowns.
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  18. Jabberwok

    Jabberwok It Wandered In From the Wastes

    Jun 7, 2008
    I don't really see why the Legion has to be morally grey. There is nothing wrong with being able to choose an 'evil' side. And Obsidian executes on it well, because there are real reasons for them to be the way they are (other than "post-apocalypse, therefore crazy cannibals"). I think it is less interesting if every faction is equivalent in terms of desirability.

    And while in subsequent lore, it might be possible to show something good having come out of the Legion, I think that painting Legion rule as stable in a positive way would be unfaithful to history. The Legion is a textbook dictatorial, even fascist regime. As Sawyer mentions, it relies on Caesar to hold together, and also relies on constant expansion, both as a source of slave labor, and to justify its militant nature. It is strong, but not at all stable, just like the regimes throughout history that inspired it.

    I still think it's a desirable option because it is interesting for these reasons. The Legion is villainous, but they're not straw man villains, IMO. And there is already so much moral ambiguity in the game, that it's nice to see some variety in the topography.
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  19. Jabberwok

    Jabberwok It Wandered In From the Wastes

    Jun 7, 2008
    My female character was a mercenary, not a feminist, and not a very nice person. She was totally unconcerned with the fate of the Mojave or the women in it. Siding with the Legion was, for her, not a question of social consequences. I guess the 'better them than me' attitude sums it up nicely.
  20. Jabberwok

    Jabberwok It Wandered In From the Wastes

    Jun 7, 2008
    I can't really fault Obsidian for making New Vegas flat. Old Vegas is flat, too.
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