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Spoilers for the Croup Manor location

Butch:

You’re right, that was interesting.

So I went in the basement at Croup Manor, then toodled off east, found a chapel that I can’t figure out what it’s for, as it had nothing I could find, then found the Oceanographic Institute. Did you find that? Cuz that was interesting, too.

But since I know you did Croup Manor….

Gotta love this game, turning things over and over very slowly….

It’s interesting to contrast this with Rex Grossman as Croup is trying to “recivilize” his family, both in terms of their humanity and their place in society. He’s trying, unsuccessfully, to RESTORE them to something, and can’t (did you see the last straw is when the only success he can find is a ghoul telling the difference between a salad fork and a dinner fork? 200 years on and he thinks it matters…..) He’s not trying to teach the great unwashed. Rex knows that mutants have never read Shakespeare, but Croup knows that, once, all these ghouls knew which fork was which.

That being said, there are some similarities. It’s VERY telling that ghouls don’t attack other ghouls. I sort of thought that was part of the “suspend disbelief” bit of games. I mean, let’s face it: we have to just kinda assume that ghouls/zombies/clickers/husks/darkspawn just are cool with each other because if they’re not then they’ll kill each other and the player will have nothing to do. But to have this EXPLICITLY that they “get along,” that they have a tacit understanding, makes them less faceless game cannon fodder and more….a….what, society? A unit of “US,” for lack of better. They seem to have some understanding that “WE are ghouls,” and Croup, in rejecting that, is interfering as much as Rex was.

Another key thing here is that Croup, technically, IS a ghoul, whether he likes it or not. Indeed, the thing that does him in is submitting to the violence we associate with ghouls. His last entry is “I’m going to bash her head in,” and, indeed, there he is next to a bloody board and a dead ghoul in a dress one can only assume is “Aunt Beatrice.” Looks like he cracked, got violent, and the ghouls turned on him. HE started it. In the end, HE was both the violent feral, yet NOT, as they turned on him. He was neither ghoul NOR human, and it killed him.

So glad I did this right around the time I did the deathclaw egg bit. There, I had a monster nodding at me. Showing some empathy, some shared values. Here, we have someone who THINKS he’s human ultimately being undone by a shared innate violence, but, in both cases, we have “monsters,” who the game has conditioned us to think is one of a mindless horde of cannon fodder/challenges, (those being ghouls and deathclaws), that seem to be more, seem to have an understanding with, at worst, each other and, at best, us. Even really good narrative games don’t have that. Clickers were just “baddies.”

Feminina:

I went through the Oceanological Institute, but I had Strong with me and was trying to win his affection, so I didn’t pick any of the locks. I need to go back.

For me, having done Croup Manor right after the Missing Rations Brotherhood quest, it was an interesting comparison in that way: one dude trying to feed ghouls because he feels sorry for them, one trying to re-civilize them because they’re his family and damn it, in this family we have proper manners and know which fork to use!

The message I took from it was that it’s pretty hopeless: you can’t actually get feral ghouls to ‘de-feralize’. I mean, if this guy, with all his motivation and 200 years of trying, couldn’t get any farther than one ghoul possibly recognizing a fork, it probably can’t be done. By implication, the BoS guy trying to bring them around through food and kind words was also wasting his time (although, scientifically speaking, we can’t be completely sure that where one method failed, another will–still, it seems probable).

Feral ghouls are feral ghouls: the conscious, ‘human’ part of them is gone beyond retrieval.

As you say, they do seem to recognize each other, in that they don’t attack each other, which I did note. I’m not really sure whether this is because they have an awareness of ‘self’ and of ‘others like me’ that makes a unified ‘us’ in their minds, or whether they simply have an awareness of ‘humans/things to attack’ and ‘non-humans/things I don’t attack,’ and other ghouls fall into the second category, but it was interesting.

It made me wonder what DOES kill ghouls ‘in the wild’–you know how a lot of times when there are a lot of ghouls, you’ll see some lying down, and sometimes they get up and attack, and sometimes they’re actually dead. What killed the dead ones, if not me? Wild animals? Eventual deterioration and ‘old age’? Other adventurers?

Butch:

Most of the stuff worth talking about at the Oceanological Institute is in the terminals. No lock picking necessary. It’s worth it, and it’s quick. Make sure you go in both places.

Sorta glad you didn’t, cuz it opens up a whole mess of other bloggage, notably about how this game treats the idea of science and scientists, which can be a whole other day.

Croup Manor…Huh. Interesting we got different interpretations of this based on what we did just prior. Another way Bethesda games are pretty awesome (except Skyrim, a disclaimer I will add until the day I die).

Although “wasting their time…” sorta depends. True, they aren’t back to normal, but then I don’t think the BoS dude was going for that in the same way that Croup or Rex was. He was trying to help them, but I don’t think he had any thoughts that they would be something other than feral ghouls.

Croup and Rex wanted them to be something more. Indeed, both wanted to “improve” them to be BETTER than the average human. Certainly Rex wanted his mutants to be more than the average raider, and Croup wasn’t just trying to restore his family to what it was pre war, but to restore it to what it was before whatever bad investments took it off its pedestal. Indeed, he even admits that he sees the war as something that might be positive, as it wiped the debt away.

Maybe “de-feralize” and “help” aren’t absolutes but sliding scales.

I dunno. The more I think on this, the more I think ghouls do have a sense of US. I’ve been trying to think of a time we’ve witnessed a fight from afar and seen them fighting something not human, like a mole rat, and I can’t. However, another thing I got last night was a REDO of that damn quest where the dude asks you to clear out that damn national guard base (I ALREADY DID THAT YOU DUMBASS AND NOW IT’S BACK ON MY QUEST LIST) and he says that “packs of ghouls” are coming out “raiding,” then going back. That seems to imply they’re doing more than just randomly wandering around bumping into poor helpless farmers. They’re looking for stuff. They WANT, then they go “home,” such as it is. That kind of dynamic suggests some crude form of community.

But back to the sliding scale, that isn’t necessarily “human.” Lots of animals do that. Shit, BUGS do that, and they aren’t human. But so do chimpanzees, which are a whole mess closer to human than bugs. So maybe ghouls are somewhere on that scale, maybe even closer to human than chimps.

I mean, we sort of touched on that with the cannery, and you saying it’s ok to eat mole rat and not ok to eat ghoul. One not human thing was MORE human.

Indeed, one thing you mentioned about ghouls is that they used to be human and they have human features. Well, if ferals don’t attack “regular” ghouls, then they must be doing that calculus. Croup is not like the ferals. He talks, he dresses nice, he makes them use forks, but they still say “He looks like me. He’s LIKE me,” so they don’t attack. They get it.

So can they be moved? Can Croup teach a ghoul what a fork is? Does it matter? Is it really helping them?

Hard to say what kills ghouls sometimes. I wish we’d see it. But certainly other humans. We know the BoS does, and one can assume so do settlers.

Feminina:

I’ll go back to the Oceanological Institute. Deacon will enjoy the hacking and picking.

I melee-fought some mirelurks there last time…maybe Strong approved. He liked me eventually, anyway.

Hm…you’re right that ghouls ‘raiding’ and returning to a home base suggests a certain group identity, although whether it differs significantly from the group identity of, say, molerats, is unclear to me. ‘Raiding’ is an interesting word to use, though, as it does imply intelligent action, seeking something specific. I wonder if maybe we’re influenced by the fact that raiders, as a group, are seeking specific things (food, loot)…I’m not sure, in fact, that feral ghouls are actually looking for anything other than targets to attack, driven by whatever lingering instinct impels them at this point in their decay.

So their “raids” are more like they sort of jointly wake up and feel a drive to go out and look for something to attack, which…yeah, is a group consciousness, but perhaps more on a “hungry, go hunt” level than a human, purposeful level.

I mean, we find stuff on ghoul bodies, but it seems fairly random and I always sort of assumed it’s whatever was on them when they became ghouls and never fell out of their ragged pockets, rather than “oh, this ghoul found this ladle and totally carried it around because it was valuable to him/her/it.” Although who knows.

Butch:

Right. “Hungry, go hunt.” But then, that’s what chimps are doing. They don’t want desk fans.

Or do they……..

“Home” is also an interesting concept. You sort of get the sense that there’s some choice of “home” with the ghouls. I mean, mole rats, mirelurks, they just kinda go where they go, but ghouls always seem to be in a place that makes some sort of defensible sense.

But then, maybe it’s all just game bullshit. They’re there cuz we need something to shoot. That’s what I thought, anyway, before Croup house.

And who knows, indeed? Maybe they just like sparkly stuff.

Feminina:

I dunno, do molerats and mirelurks just go where they go? I mean, sometimes we do find them wandering out and about, but also we tend to stumble on clusters of them in specific spots (obviously around water sources for mirelurks, in various places for molerats). Their sense of ‘home’ may be similar to that of feral ghouls–or of raiders or Gunners or super mutants, for that matter: in the case of any of these categories, we tend to find clusters of them when we go into certain locations.

Which may just be a game convenience, but could also reflect a perfectly plausible tendency of all sorts of creatures in real life to form ‘dens’ or have ‘territories.’ I’m not sure we can say anything in particular about the consciousness of ghouls based on the fact that they tend to have dens or bases. They may have a semi-conscious group identity, or they may just sort of gravitate to each other and to denlike spaces based on some sort of lingering instinct.

Say, maybe they move towards things that move, and when they get close enough to tell (through whatever senses they have remaining) whether the moving thing is human (or other animal? as you say, we don’t really see feral ghouls fighting mirelurks or anything), they attack if it is, and if it’s not they don’t attack but tend to remain near it until something else draws their attention…which, if two moved toward each other and then both detected something else, would eventually result in multiple ghouls tending to congregate and jointly attack whoever came near them, without them REALLY having any kind of conscious purpose in doing so.

Butch:

Mostly, I bet the way things congregate is just game convenience. But we gotta analyze something.

I wonder if we’re going to come across more of this line blurring.

As I keep going off on deathclaw mission, how did that end for you? Someone ate the egg, right?

Feminina:

Oh yeah, the deathclaw mission…I took it back to that snooty robot in the restaurant across from the Dugout Inn in Diamond City, haggled him into paying me 500 caps for it, and he said he had a customer who really liked deathclaw egg omelets and would be pleased (although he complained that there was only one egg). Then he gave me a recipe for Deathclaw Wellingham, which appears to be a sort of Beef Wellington variant.

I didn’t see anyone eat the egg, but that was certainly its reported fate.

I’m curious if the person who wanted the omelet is in any way related to the person who wanted deathclaw eggs for omelets in FONV…remember that mission? I got it early on, when it was an instant-death-quest, and it haunted me for weeks.

Probably not related, but it was an interesting sort of callback.

Butch:

Dude the omelet bit is a callback to two way back in the day. Long long ago.

More eating possibly sentient things. Great.

By the way I’m broke again. Down to less than 100 caps. Kept forgetting those store cost money. But gotta get that trophy!!!

Feminina:

Nice…the prodigal omelet returns! Ha.

I build a lot of stores too, and I always forget to collect caps from my workshops. I still somehow have about 40,000 caps. I dunno, man. I attract money, I guess.

Butch:

Wait, what? You can collect caps? For real?

Yeah, the FO2 one was this thing where they had a “special bird.” The omelet healed, like, everything.

It was awesome.

Feminina:

Yeah, dude, your stores make money and it goes into the workshop. Scroll over to MISC in the workshop view and grab them! Not that I ever remember to. But you should try it if you’re short on funds.

Deathclaws were euphemistically called “a special bird” in FO2? I’m confused.

Butch:

THAT’S what it means when it says “Increases revenue for the settlement.”

Wonder how that works. I mean, it must be hard to go shopping when you have to pass 27 machine gun turrets trying to kill you. “DUDES I just want a damn Brahmin steak!”

No no no. There was this diner with a big cage out back that was all walled off with what they SAID was a bird. If you got nosy and picked the lock (which you SO would do) then you pretty much died as a) it was early in the game and b) deathclaws in the early games make the deathclaws in this one look like mole rats.

It was one of those NPCs saying “Do NOT go in there.” But, in that case, it was good advice.

Feminina:

It’s like I keep saying: my settlers are not raiders! We welcome peaceful traders and shoppers! Come on in: buy a steak!

Ha…yes, I would pick that lock. Instant death!

Butch:

They just have to get used to the ambiance in my bar and grill. Big fucking lion statues and machine gun turrets every ten feet.

It’s a niche market, true, but hey. You gotta go with what you got.

Feminina:

An ambiance of SAFETY, is what it is. I would feel very secure getting drunk in that environment. Quietly, non-threateningly drunk, with no sudden movements.

Butch:

The disco balls reflect so nicely off of laser turrets. And when they get going? I mean, what an EFFECT.

Feminina:

The crowd on Saturday night gets out of control, man. It’s THE place to be in the waste. You need to advertise more, is all.

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