Relational Morality in Fallout 4

Fallout 4’s companion system treats morality with greater nuance.

Written by M. Joshua Cauller / Published on November 18, 2015


The Karma system of Fallout 3 is gone from Fallout 4. No longer do we earn positive or negative Karma points whenever we do something good or bad. And no longer does everybody in the world hate you just because you have Bad Karma. At first I took this as a license to steal everything. I started to sneak things into my pockets while backs were turned. I stole half of everything I could find in Diamond City, the game’s central hub. It seemed like I could steal without consequence.

Piper started following me in the middle of my secret loot-fest. She didn’t know about my new pastime until I stole something while the radio host Travis wasn’t looking. I noticed the pissed-off look on her face just before “Piper didn’t like that” popped up on my screen. I took note: Piper frowns on theft. Got it.

"Fallout 4’s new relational morality system makes me feel like I have a real reason to be good (or ruthless): it brings me closer to others."
We left town and found a wandering trader with a ton of awesome goods. I couldn’t afford any of them, so I decided to take them by force. I queued-up the shots in VATS, pulled the trigger, and sent brains flying. “Piper HATED that,” my Pip Boy said. She looked like she was gonna leave me right there.

Cait on the other hand, loves bloodshed. In fact, if I don’t do enough violent things, she seems to lose interest.

Strong started following me because he was looking for ‘The Milk of Human Kindness.’ But when I just want to pick old locked safes, I get a notification that “Strong didn’t like that.” He then expressed his feelings, “You don’t find Milk of Human Kindness in old human junk.”

Coddsworth seems distant. I have no idea how to repair our relationship since he feels like I abandoned him for the past two hundred years. I’ll figure out what he wants me to do eventually. I’m just not sure at the moment.

The morality system works off of whoever follows you. How you act determines their attitude towards you. But it’s a discovery process. You never know what somebody is going to like or dislike. This turns what was once an abstract system of morality into a relationship game of getting to know people and how to relate to them.

My relationship with Coddsworth may still be another score-based system just like the morality scores of old. And I’m not sure what those relationship points build up to. It could be romance options in some cases, but I’m sure the reward is different with Coddsworth since he’s a service robot. Still, it adds motivation for me to learn how he works, how to do what pleases him, and it makes me excited to see where it goes.

Fallout 4’s relational morality replaces Fallout 3’s Karma system in a way that improves character relationships. While the Karma system validated righteous decisions and penalized me for doing evil, it only served to limit relationships. Fallout 4’s new relational morality system makes me feel like I have a real reason to be good (or ruthless): it brings me closer to others.

About the Author:

M. Joshua Cauller makes unique player-centered indie game trailers when he's not exploring games' redemptive qualities. He can sometimes be found away from his computer (if you're patient). You can follow him on Twitter @mjoshua or check out his trailer production work at

  • Joe Mike Step

    Karma system sounds like Kant vs. the relative utilitarianism of relationship system. Interesting subject, glad you thought of it and wrote about it.

    Also, while I never played Fallout 3 and ever really got hyped for Fallout 4, the more people talk about it the more I get hyped.

  • Blake Turner

    Great piece! Yeah, I think this system is better too, for a few reasons. 1. Immersion. If I’m secretly stealing shit, the whole world isn’t going to know, but the people who do will be affected. 2. It’s a deeper system, and it works much better for roleplaying.

  • M. Joshua Cauller

    No doubt! It’s rare that we get such a deep toy box of interesting systems!

  • M. Joshua Cauller

    Exactly! It’s funny because I think Dragon Age Inquisition had similar ambitions, but it mostly got relegated into the discussion system, and therefore lacked consequence. Like people only care about what you say. Haha.

  • C.T. Casberg

    Codsworth loves it when you mod items.

    He also loves bowler hats.