I actually start out exploring a little bit closer to home. I return to the Bed and Breakfast to find that the raiders are back. And their little dog too. And by little dog I mean vicious pit bull. I get another flame-thrower, a nice pile of ammo and I encounter my first slaver. Damn friendly fellow who doesn't say much other than "Shame About The Slaves - would have made a fortune in Paradise Falls." At least, that's all he says before I end his sorry life. No sign of the dead slaves he was talking about, though.
Ah yes... Paradise Falls. The mythical city of the slavers. I've heard of the place but haven't heard where it is. Maybe we'll find it on the way to the military base to the west I heard about? I heard rumors the slavers all came from the west of Megaton.
Turns out the base isn't so abandoned after all. Seems the Talon Mercenaries had been using it as a campsite. They keyword being had. I'm not sure these guys are as bright as they are ruthless. since one of them had a rocket launcher and attempted to shoot me with it through a chain-link fence and almost point-blank range. Another ammo dump. Another trip back to Megaton to sell guns and ammo I don't need.
The road to Oasis was littered with Super Mutants. I rescued another three captives, including my first male captive - just as I was starting to think that every single person I had to rescue was a helpless woman. Of course the ratio so far is running about 6:1, so... yeah. Not a very progressive view of the apocalypse. I mean to say, you'd think there would be some boy whores in all of this...
(Little Firefly reference for you all. Moving On.)
I also wind up fighting a ton of mutant bear monsters, more giant scorpions and even another robotic brain. I also wind up discovering a nuclear waste dump site that was - in a fit of irony, I assume - named the Greener Pastures Waste Facility.
Eventually, after much walking and rock-climbing (Rock-climbing, Joel...), I found a mountain pass guarded by two people in brown robes who were wearing twigs. One of them - an older man - greeted me and told me that my coming was foretold by Him and that I was to speak to Him.
Well, I'm allowed into the city and it is - as promised - a green paradise with water that's only slightly radioactive. I talk to the old man who reveals that he is father to this group of Tree-Tenders. A speechifying check and he tells me that Him is a tree. A talking tree and god of nature who has blessed the grove and taught them to live in peace with nature, free of the corruption of technology. Well, all technology except guns - they need something to protect themselves with from the Outsiders, after all.
So yeah... Oasis is basically a hippie commune, only with a serious lack of uninhibited young women and recreational drugs. Well, except for the tree sap that causes me to pass out after the Father insists on me undergoing a purification ritual before I am allowed to see Him. The ritual consists of listening to the rest of the Tenders recite bad poetry and then drinking their magic tree sap.
When I wake up, I'm in a grove with a big damn tree. With a face. He says his name is Harold, but the plant growing out of his is named Bob. It becomes readily apparent that Harold is going out of his mind. It seems that he was human once, contact with some radioactive waste caused him to start sprouting plant-life and now "Bob" has grown so big that he's enveloped Harold completely. He's also somehow keeping Harold alive, since Harold has been rooted in place for the better part of 200 years, thus creating all this wonderful greenery whenever his seed spreads.
Yeah. I'm starting to wonder about that tree sap too.
Anyway, his connection to the local environment allows Harold to see most of what goes on around him - since why my outsider self was allowed into Oasis to speak to Harold and do him a favor. He wants to die and he wants me to kill him. I try to talk him into continuing to live and trying to convince him that his lot is not so bad. But he's having none of it and asks why the first outsider he's seen in months has to have a conscience. He then asks me to go into the caves under the city, find his heart (it's in his roots) and kill him. I ask why I can't just set him on fire but it turns out that Harold is afraid of fire and that he doesn't want to die THAT way.
I head to the caves and walk in on a conversation with Father and his wife, Mother. It seems Father is concerned about the outside world and fears that unless Oasis is kept contained, it will become tainted. Mother, on the other hand, thinks that Harold is a means of salvation and that their duty should be to spread the greenery to the rest of the Capitol Wasteland. They both ask me to help them, with Father giving me an elixir that will stun Harold's growth and Mother giving me one that will accelerate it, hopefully restoring the ecosystem of the Wasteland within decades instead of centuries.
Well, no choice really - needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few and all. I decide to help Mother. But first, I have to go into the caves. Caves full of not just Mirelurk crab men but also Mirelurk Hunters and Mirelurk Kings. The Hunters are bigger and tougher. The Kings have some kind of sonic/psychic attack that hurts like hell. Thankfully, they have relatively human heads so they are a LOT easier to kill than even regular Mirelurks.
I wind up using the "growth" formula on the heart and return to Harold. He asks me why I did what I did and I explain to him that it would be cruel of me to deny the tree-tenders their purpose in life. Actually, I could care less about the hippies being content with their lot - I want to save the world and let my grand kids have a green lawn to play on. Regardless, Harold accepts this and decides to try and take joy in the happiness he gives others.
Speaking of giving, Mother thanks me for my help and says that some of the other Tree-Tenders would like to thank me too.
I wind up getting a lucky charm that boosts my Speech skill by 10 points, a hood woven of Harold's bark that increases my agility by 1 and my sneak skill by 10 (goodbye Shady Fedora) and one of the brothers who used to be a member of the Brotherhood of Steel gives me his Outcast Brotherhood of Steel member armor.
Now, I actually got into a talk about this yesterday with my friend Patrick. In the first 2 Fallout games, it was all but IMPOSSIBLE to get Brotherhood of Steel armor. Even if you joined the order (which was a tasking task in and of itself), you still had to do several quests to prove yourself worthy of a set of Knights armor. Patrick said he had heard in the game that it was insanely easy to get the armor and that the Brotherhood seemed to die a lot easier.
I confirmed the later point - all but one of the Brotherhood I've seen so far were corpses slaughtered by Super Mutants - but I hadn't tried the armor since it lowers your agility while boosting your strength and I'm a fighter who is built for movement.
Still... this outcast armor I considered. It only boosted strength 1 point, but the agility penalty was only 1 as well. Easily balanced out by my new Hood of Stealthiness. And it also gave me radiation protection AND a bonus to using Big Gun weapons.
What a shame I can't wear it without special training...
So yeah. Not quite as game-break as we'd hoped. Still, if I can find someone to train me in wearing an armored suit...