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DannyJ


I'm just here to write.

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Jul
17th
2021

Wanderer's Diary commentaries · 3:03pm Jul 17th, 2021

The following are my author's notes for the 2021 rewrite of Wanderer's Diary for Archive of Our Own. Since many of them contain in-depth analysis in a similar vein to some of my previous reviews and commentaries, I have decided to collect and post them as their own blog for those who might be interested in hearing more about my creative process or general thoughts on both Wanderer's Diary and Fallout 3 as a whole. These notes will of course contain spoilers for both.


Week One:

Wanderer's Diary was a fic started in 2012, originally written and published in Google docs format, and linked to my followers on FimFiction.net. In 2013, it found independent success on Fanfic.net, where I published it under the name Three Rejects. It would go on to become my first and only longfic I have ever actually completed to date, and spawned several sequels and spin-offs, which I also plan to post here. What you are reading now is a cleaned-up and partially rewritten version for AO3, mostly correcting for grammatical errors or awkward phrasing. This version will also contain additional author's notes and commentary. The rewrite itself is ongoing, and rewritten chapters will be posted semi-regularly as I finish them, but if you desperately want the next chapter and don't want to wait, you can find the completed original version on Fanfic.net for now.

The first three chapters of Wanderer's Diary were also adapted into a machinima series by Reeve X on YouTube from 2013-2015. Obviously the adaptation was left incomplete, and is based on the original version rather than this rewrite, but it's still pretty neat, and the guy clearly put a lot of work into it, so I recommend at least checking it out.

Otherwise, if you're new to my stories in general or the Diaryverse in particular, enjoy the ride. It gets significantly more fucked up from here.

Week Two:

For context, the entire process of rewriting this chapter and converting it for AO3 was done after already posting the previous one, so as you can see, it doesn't take me long to do. Not promising daily updates or anything, but yeah, I should have the full fic uploaded relatively quickly, time and enthusiasm permitting.

Week Three:

Fallout 3 is a game with many quirks. Though I greatly enjoyed it back when I first played it, I have always found it deeply flawed in many ways, and Wanderer's Diary was just as much a parody of the game as it was a tribute to it. The slaughter of Arefu and the Wanderer's enduring hatred for Ian West may seem like an out of left field development for comedy's sake, and it kind of is, but it's also something that actually happens in the game. In one of my first playthroughs, I actually did slaughter the Family, only to come back and find Arefu hostile for no logical reason, because Bethesda just assumed that players would take the peaceful ending to the quest, and had set Arefu and the Family as allies regardless of whether or not you actually broker an alliance. So naturally, when this happens to the Wanderer, he blames Ian West, because there's really no other person it could logically be.

Much of the rest of the early story is also based on moments from my own playthroughs, particularly the Wanderer's first encounter with super mutants, and the fact that he headed north towards Arefu before ever going after his dad. Unlike my later Fallout stories, Wanderer's Diary was not directly adapted from any one playthrough, and was instead mostly constructed from memory and wiki consultation, but a few select moments here and there are drawn from my own experiences of the game. More on that later.

On a final note, this chapter also contains the first minor story change of the rewrite, covering a minor plot hole. When I wrote the original version, I was not aware that the Mechanist and AntAgonizer were meant to be literally cosplaying fictional characters in their universe. I thought that they were just taking on generic superhero identities of their own creations. To be fair, I don't think that the lore about the Mechanist being a Silver Shroud villain was established until Fallout 4, but the AntAgonizer at least was meant to be a Grognak villain, and as a self-proclaimed Grognak fan, the Wanderer should have recognised and acknowledged what she was doing. Now he does.

Week Four:

The player character in Fallout 3 has many, many advantages over the game's enemies. They have full situational awareness thanks to the compass, the ability to stop time and strategically pick targets with VATS, or bring up their Pip-Boy to apply instant healing or stat boosts, and that's before factoring the more logical advantages like better equipment or just flat-out being stronger and smarter than the average raider. You can argue that these are necessary for the gameplay experience, and in a sense they are, but the result is that the player characters in Bethesda games are always at least slightly overpowered (unless you intentionally choose to raise the difficulty, but even that mostly just turns enemies into bullet sponges, so it isn't necessarily any more realistic).

The somewhat hilarious end result of this is that even when interpreting the game's mechanics in a more grounded fashion (i.e. VATS and the Pip-Boy don't actually slow time, headshots are generally fatal, etc.) the Lone Wanderer is still killing dozens upon dozens of people on a daily basis, because they're just that easy for him to kill, and that's reflected here by his arrogance and how casually he treats supposedly dangerous enemies like Talon Company or the Outcasts, even if they're still somewhat more difficult to take down in-game.

From an in-universe perspective, it's probably not quite as easy as he's making it out to be. I imagine that the Wanderer is still taking his fair share of damage in these fights, and needs to medicate and dig out the bullets afterwards just like anyone else would. He's just not mentioning the less flattering parts, and he's lucky that he never gets shot anywhere vital before he finds power armour. Not to mention he's got the Pip-Boy putting a display over his vision, telling him where the threats are, and when his shots have the best chance to hit. He takes these advantages for granted, because he's never known any other way, but even taking the video game-y bullshit out of the equation, the compass and VATS really are a significant leg-up on other wastelanders, which goes at least some way towards explaining why he's such a killing machine.

I still tried to give the Wanderer the occasional challenge throughout the story for drama's sake, like I did with the deathclaw in the previous chapter, but yeah, he pretty much slaughters his ways across the wasteland for most of the story, because it's just more true to the Fallout 3 experience that way. Plus I think it's funnier.

Week Five:

Week Five is one of the larger chapters in the story. Appropriate enough, considering that the DC ruins are one of the most expansive parts of Fallout 3. If you couldn't already tell by this point in the story, I wrote Wanderer's Diary with a hyper-completionist mindset, even though I wasn't even actually playing the game along with it. I wanted this Lone Wanderer to meet everyone, discover everything, and squeeze every last drop of content out of the game he could, even going through all the samey metro tunnels. Many elements of this story were written to parody elements of the games, and this characterisation of the Wanderer (his need to explore everything, find everything, and obsessively list everything he finds), is at least in part a riff on video game protagonist behaviour, and how people like me play these games. If Fallout 3 were a book or a movie, the Wanderer's first and only concern would be finding his father. But it's not. It's a game. And in games, sometimes the players will go in the complete opposite direction from the main story to go side-questing in Arefu, or decide to trawl through every square inch of the DC ruins in search of skill books and mini nukes instead. That's what I did, because that's just the nature of the sandbox. It distracts you. And there's nothing wrong with that, but it's kinda funny considering how urgent and important the main quest is made out to be.

Operation Anchorage and the DC ruins also provide ample opportunity for non-comedic reflection, and the first hint of serious character development in the story. The Wanderer's thoughts and musings aren't meant to be a commentary on anything in particular, but I like to think that they lend context to what sort of person he is outside of his kill-crazy madman persona. Although far-removed from the original games, Washington DC was a very interesting choice of setting for a Fallout game because of how steeped in history it is, and how starkly that history contrasts with a post-apocalyptic world. The Lincoln Memorial being occupied by slavers is a particularly poignant metaphor for how far this world has fallen, and clearing them out is a powerful statement of the player's potential to affect change in the world. And I think that the Lone Wanderer, having been raised in a vault on stories of the glory of pre-war America, and living so close to the nation's former heart, would have at least a little touch of Old World Blues in such a place (especially at this point, before the Enclave arrives to sour his notions).

On a less masturbatory note, you may also notice another correction I've made in the rewrite is that the Wanderer no longer carries around full sets of Outcast power armour in his backpack, like you can in Fallout 3 and Vegas. Instead, now he's only carrying individual armour pieces, and leaving the frames behind, following the lead of how power armour works in Fallout 4. Obviously this way makes much more sense, considering what power armour is supposed to be in the series' lore, and I'm kind of embarrassed that I never thought of it myself.

Week Six:

One of the things that a lot of the commenters on Fanfic.net mentioned when I was originally posting this was the way I integrated the perks into the story. I never thought much of it at the time, because to me, perks are just an aspect of how you build your character, but I suppose that perks in Fallout 3 are a lot weirder than stats or dialogue choices. They give strange and unique abilities, or unlock special encounters, and I've always found this one of the most fascinating parts of the game. Things like the Mysterious Stranger showing up, or unlocking the Regulator faction, or becoming a cyborg or a ninja (or a cyborg ninja) are all possibilities opened by the world of perks. And a lot of them are pretty wacky and out there, so I think that acknowledging them and making them an explicit part of the story works well for a comedy. When you think about it, a lot of strange shit happens to Fallout protagonists anyway, so when the Lone Wanderer is already dealing with human-passing androids and actual aliens in this chapter, a teleporting dude in a trench coat isn't really that much more of a stretch, is it?

Week Seven:

According to some official developer statements, Mothership Zeta was intended to be the Lone Wanderer's chronologically last adventure, which makes some degree of sense, considering it's so weird and isolated from everything else in the game. The main story forces you to ally with the Brotherhood of Steel, so it's a hell of an oversight that the Lone Wanderer (especially if he really buys into the Brotherhood) doesn't have the option to give them alien technology or use his personal spaceship to help defeat the Enclave. And yes, that's still a missed opportunity either way, but from a story perspective, if the Wanderer was intended to take on the aliens last, then it sort of makes sense why alien technology never made it to the Brotherhood. Canonically, I kind of assume that the Wanderer and Elliot eventually got the ship working again, and set out into space to continue the war against the Zetans. It would certainly explain why he's nowhere to be found in Fallout 4, even despite everything going on with Maxson's Brotherhood; he's got bigger fish to fry.

But of course, just because that was the developers' intent, that doesn't mean that players will always approach it that way; I certainly didn't. When I first played Mothership Zeta, I just stumbled across it during an otherwise normal playthrough, which of course opens up all those plot holes again. I give my own answers for those during the course of this story, but the main reason I wrote it this way was just to highlight how weirdly funny it is to have the story of Fallout 3 continue on uninterrupted while the Lone Wanderer has a fucking spaceship in his back pocket the whole time.

This was also the chapter where I first introduced the audio log format, probably one of my better ideas in the story, in my humble opinion. It allows for a change of pace and format, a different style of humour, and a more immediate, intimate, and objective view of events than the Wanderer's personal recounting, though it does have the effect of lengthening the word count somewhat (and is harder to edit for this rewrite). I like the opportunity to play around with the format, though, and to lean on the fourth wall a bit with the Wanderer commenting on the transcript live as it's recorded.

A minor plot hole correction to note. In the original version, I had Charon claim that radscorpion is inedible, because in Fallout 3 and New Vegas, you can't harvest meat from them. I assumed that they were just too venomous for it to be worthwhile (unless you're Ruby Nash making a casserole). But then this changed in Fallout 4, where you can indeed cook yourself a radscorpion steak. I considered leaving this line unchanged, and just characterising the Sole Survivor as an absolute madman who is perfectly happy to eat highly toxic meat (which would fit well with his portrayal in Survivor's Testament), but considering that other characters in the Commonwealth probably handle radscorpion meat too, it just makes more sense to have Capital Wasteland and Commonwealth radscorpions be different species instead.

Week Eight:

The Replicated Man is a very interesting quest. Bethesda obviously knew what they wanted to do for Fallout 4 well in advance, considering that they were teasing it all the way back in 2008, and it gave us a good seven years to wonder wide-eyed about the technological wonders of the Commonwealth and the Institute before we finally got to see them for ourselves. It's interesting to see how the concept evolved between games too, like how Harkness is primarily referred to as an android rather than a synth.

One of those evolutions was apparently the development of the idea of the courser, because Armitage in Fallout 3 is nowhere near as tough as I wrote him here. In the game, he's just as squishy as any other human NPC, but this never really made sense to me. If Armitage was one of the androids they sent out to hunt down other androids, and was acting as a bodyguard to an Institute bigshot, then he should've been way more badass than he was. I'm not sure if this was an engine limitation, an oversight, a gameplay concession to avoid making a surprise boss battle for an unsuspecting player, or if they just legitimately hadn't come up with the idea of coursers yet, but either way, this was one of the few points where I decided to play a little loose with canon by basically turning him into the Terminator.

My justification for this is that I don't treat gameplay in Fallout 3 as a 100% accurate representation of the game world anyway. In the moment to moment gameplay, the Capital Wasteland is only seventeen square miles, the day and night cycle lasts an hour, and normal humans can survive multiple bullets to the head and keep on fighting without so much as a shot of Med-X. Obviously these are all gameplay concessions; when writing a story, I don't treat these things seriously. So since enemy health values and damage resistance in the game change depending on level and difficulty anyway, I don't treat that seriously either. To me, characters don't have a canonical level of toughness unless it's stated or self-evident, so when it comes to writing fights, I make characters exactly as tough as I want them to be. In Armitage's case, that means I gave him an upgrade.

Week Nine:

James is such a weird character to me. From his calm and gentle way of speaking, his self-sacrifice, and the work and ideals he dedicates his life towards, you get the impression that he's a very moral man, and sure enough, his karma is set to "good" if you examine the game files. Yet he's also able to casually brush off his son nuking a town full of innocent people for fun. No matter how much of a monster you are in Fallout 3, your dad will never hate you for it. I guess that's also a good quality in a way? That James is apparently all-loving and able to forgive any sin, no matter how egregious? I mean, it's very Christian, and his life's work is apparently inspired by a Bible quote. But it's probably not a good quality to have in the wasteland, and probably not ideal for a parent, and I suspect that James's overly forgiving nature is a big part of why evil karma Lone Wanderers turn out the ways they do. I mean, yeah, if you're willing to literally let your kid get away with murder when you're living in a world like Fallout 3's, don't be surprised if they go and murder someone.

Nonetheless, it presents an interesting angle storywise for the Lone Wanderer's relationship with his father. James is one of the central characters of Fallout 3, and is arguably even more important to the story than the Lone Wanderer is, but for as much emphasis and importance as he's given, he doesn't appear much after the prologue, and you don't get much of a chance to establish your character's relationship with him. It's all secondary to Project Purity by then. So I wanted to show a little more of that relationship, particularly what I consider to be the most interesting aspect of it from the game – that James is probably the one person in the world who could still love and forgive the Wanderer after he just confessed to being a literal serial killer. And for someone like this particular Wanderer, someone with very few scruples who constantly teeters on the edge of going too far, I think James would be a very important stabalising influence for him.

Week Ten:

A lot of reviews on Fanfic.net compared the Lone Wanderer here to Dexter during the Rivet City murders. It wasn't 100% intentional, but I can see it. I mean, he even used a kill-room for Seagrave Holmes. And much like Dexter, he's a serial killer who targets bad people, though he obviously has a much lower threshold for what he considers worthy of death. Fallout 4 would also later end up doing something similar to this with the character of Pickman. But why did I characterise the Lone Wanderer as such a murderhobo?

Well, karma in Fallout 3 is extremely weird. The game has an objective morality system, where one action is always good, another is always bad, and sometimes there's a neutral option like demanding caps for a job instead of doing it for free, and this means that morality in Fallout 3 is so oversimplified and so rigidly defined that it tends to pigeonhole the player into one of three archetypes, sometimes even contrary to their actual choices.

Depending on your karma, Three Dog will continually refer to you as either the second coming of Christ, the Devil incarnate, or a mercenary only out for himself. You can't really be a morally complex character in Fallout 3. Or, well, you can, but the game won't recognise that. It's far too generous with the good karma, it judges your karma separately from quest outcomes, and having karma measured on a binary scale with such low upper limits on either end means that actions can cancel each other out. This can lead to some pretty absurd scenarios, like how you can nuke Megaton, but people will still call you a good guy if you give enough purified water to beggars. Or you can get something like what I wrote earlier, where Three Dog will practically suck off you off live on air, only to then immediately turn around and accuse you of being a contract killer or call you a bastard for killing Roy Phillips or something.

There's no mixed reputation with karma like there is for the faction system in New Vegas. And with the moral choices in the game being as simple as they are, you tend to fall into good karma by default, because the only way to get negative karma or even to maintain neutral karma is to go out of your way to be a dick. With very few exceptions, the moral choices in Fallout 3 are rarely ever a challenge. Tenpenny Tower and the Pitt are some of the few times you'll ever have to make a hard call, but most of the game isn't this morally complex. "Do you want to nuke a town full of innocent people for literally no reason, or not?" or "Do you want to become a slaver, or kill them?" are not particularly troubling dilemmas for most people. In fact, some of these choices are downright insane. Unless you're roleplaying as an outright sadist, there's very little incentive to ever wipe out Megaton, but that's the "evil" choice the quest gives you. Most players are probably going to choose to disarm the bomb just because it's more practical to not wipe out a major location full of merchants and quest-givers, so they're going to fall into the hero archetype even if they're not actually a heroic character at all.

This is kind of what this Lone Wanderer is a riff on. From a meta perspective, he's essentially gaming the karma system. Objectively speaking, he's a liar, a thief, and a mass murderer, because the game incentivises you to be all of these things to different degrees. And yet, Three Dog and the rest of the Capital Wasteland still consider him a benevolent, messianic hero because he makes the good karma choices in quests and gives water to beggars, even if his motivations are usually far from pure. It's one of the greatest examples of ludonarrative dissonance I've ever encountered, the way Fallout 3 constantly tries to cast the Lone Wanderer as a traditional hero, even when he's stealing and murdering all over the wasteland.

On an unrelated note, Bannon being an implied child molester might seem like a really random and dark addition on my part (and it kind of is), but much like Arefu, this is yet another scenario that can actually literally occur in the game because of Bethesda bugs. So that's what this is referencing. I'm taking the implications of a really unfortunate bug seriously and rolling with the consequences. It's probably not as funny as it was with Arefu, but it is the perfect excuse to get the Lone Wanderer into another absurd situation and wrap up the Rivet City Serial Killer arc in a neat bow.

Week Eleven:

The song the Wanderer sings to Marie is, of course, "Wasteland Soul" by the great Miracle of Sound, one of my personal favourite fansongs of all time. The story of Fallout 3 is far from perfect, as I'm sure you're all aware, but "Wasteland Soul" captures the game's themes, emotions, and atmosphere perfectly, and elevates it all beyond the confines of the game itself to make something truly brilliant. For this story's purposes, I like to imagine that the Wanderer composed it as a poem during one of his many long treks through the wastes. I mean, we've already seen some of his other poetry already...

I'm not actually sure if it's possible in-game to side with neither faction in The Pitt and just kill them both. Like I said, this wasn't actually based on a playthrough, so I wasn't able to research this directly. I would assume that if you killed either Wernher or Ashur, the other would be set as essential or disappear from your reach, but I don't know that. But it should theoretically be possible from a story perspective, even if it's not an outcome that Bethesda ever planned for in the game itself. In that regard, it's quite similar to how I resolved Tenpenny Tower in the previous chapter. I'm going off the rails a little from the options the game allows, which is always a risk in a way, but it allows me to explore interesting story possibilities. The Pitt was one of the darkest DLCs, so I wanted this to be one of the darkest chapters for the Wanderer's character development, pushing him to new extremes so that what's about to happen with Project Purity will hit him all the harder.

I'll talk more about some of those extremes and story possibilities later.

Week Twelve:

In many ways, Fallout 3 really is more the story of James than it is the story of the Lone Wanderer. People bring this up as a criticism, and say how the Lone Wanderer doesn't really have any agency in the main story, because James is the one making all the decisions and driving the plot (at least until he dies, and Dr. Li and the Brotherhood of Steel take over the role). And it's true. I can't deny that. The Lone Wanderer goes through some serious shit, and can potentially even give his life to save Project Purity, but even then, he's still ultimately just following in his father's footsteps. And sure, as a criticism of the game, that's valid, but I'm not here to rewrite Fallout 3. This isn't a fixfic.

Instead, I just wanted to contextualise James's central importance to the story of Fallout 3, and to have the Wanderer feel it as well. Because sure, to the player, it may be frustrating that James is the most important person in the world, and that the Wanderer is just following in his footsteps. But from the Lone Wanderer's perspective, well... isn't it only natural for the parent to lead and the child to follow? And my particular take on the Lone Wanderer needed his father's guidance more than most, because just look at what he gets up to when he's deprived of it.

Week Thirteen:

This is a very story-heavy chapter. Lot going on in this one to unpack.

So for a start, one of the things I wanted to do here was show more of the Enclave's wider impact on the Capital Wasteland. Most of the characters, factions, and settlements in Fallout 3 were designed primarily as side content, and kind of exist in a vacuum, not as part of a larger interconnected world affected by major story events, so they don't react dynamically to the Enclave's appearance. To Bethesda's credit, the game does change significantly once the Enclave appear, especially with their camps popping up everywhere, but it's mostly just something you see out in the wastes. You never see the Enclave occupying Rivet City or trying to exterminate Underworld or anything. So this chapter tries to paint a wider picture of the Enclave's war by showing some more direct consequences of their actions for the lives of ordinary people like Agatha and Lucas Simms.

At the same time, with the Enclave entering the picture as the main antagonists for the foreseeable future, this chapter also begins a kind of villainous passing of the torch. In Fallout 3 proper, you never really stop fighting raiders or super mutants or Talon Company ambushes, but for story purposes, I wanted a clearer delineation between the kinds of enemies the Wanderer used to face vs. who he's facing now. So this chapter (and the next) serves to wrap up the stories of the various minor villains of Fallout 3, starting with Roy Phillips, moving onto the largest raider stronghold in the region (and the last super mutant behemoth in the game), Talon Company, and ending with Littlehorn and Associates (at least for now).

Talon Company are particularly worth focusing on, because while the Wanderer will still face the occasional raider gang or super mutant warband for the rest of the story, this actually is more or less the end for Talon Company. I wanted something more conclusive for them for several reasons, but primarily because there's no way to ever actually get the Talon ambushes to stop in Fallout 3, and the longer it goes on, the more ridiculous and unrealistic it becomes. Talon Company are total chumps by the time the Enclave shows up and the player is sporting full power armour, and yet they keep coming after you, always in squads of three, no matter how ineffective it always is, and no matter how many of their men are killed in action. It makes Talon Company seem like they simultaneously have infinite resources and manpower, and yet zero strategic or tactical sense. I mean, if you're really willing to send upwards of a hundred men into the meat grinder against the Lone Wanderer, and he's killed like ten of your small squads already, then why not just send a couple dozen after him at once and be done with it?

So I think it's more realistic and makes more sense to just have them exit the story around about here instead, and the Wanderer raiding their headquarters and killing their boss is the logical point for them to fall from power and plot relevance, as well as signal that the stakes are raised, with the old enemies on their way out, and the Enclave on their way in. Not to mention that it gives me the chance to write the Littlehorn scene and explain what I consider to be one of the greater mysteries of Fallout 3, that being who the hell is hiring Talon Company if they're supposed to be mercenaries?

Speaking of which, Daniel Littlehorn is a very strange character. He's almost like the embodiment of the flaws of the karma system. He's an evil counterpart to the Regulators, just paying you to do evil for evil's sake without any clear motivation, just because an evil option must always exist for the player. It's bizarre. He pays you to kill good people and cause chaos in the wasteland, but he doesn't actually care who in particular. He doesn't have any grand strategy or ambition or profit motive. He just wants to fuck with people. But it made me wonder what kind of person he could possibly be to spend his time doing this. Just a bored sociopath? Something more ideological? Or maybe a mix of the two?

I went with the latter because of the characterisation opportunity it affords for the Wanderer. Without his father to guide him, and with him gradually sinking to ever greater depths, I wanted to show how the Wanderer rationalises his contradictory actions, and how he sees himself. He's crazy, but he's not actually a sociopath. He does have human connections and a conscience. But where does he draw the line, and why does he draw it there? Daniel Littlehorn is the answer to that. The Wanderer is almost as much of a selfish, cynical nihilist as Littlehorn, but what separates them is that the Wanderer enjoys helping good people just as much as he likes hurting bad ones, whereas Littlehorn just likes hurting people, period.

Week Fourteen:

Writing for the companion characters is weird. It's been a long time since I played Fallout 3, but I remember most of the companion characters being pretty flat. Charon and Fawkes had some of the more interesting character premises, as well as the most memorable introductions in the game, which I think at least partly explains their popularity. But unlike the later games, in Fallout 3, you can't really have any interesting conversations with companions after they join you. They don't have character arcs or companion quests, and they don't even offer any commentary as you explore the world or go through the story (at least until Project Purity, where they all tell you to go fuck yourself and die unless you paid for the DLC), so most of them don't even have much dialogue, let alone complex characterisation. Butch DeLoria is the exception that proves the rule, since the player spends a significant amount of time interacting with him as a main story NPC first, so he has a fairly fleshed-out backstory and personality, but even he doesn't have any significant interactions with the player after you recruit him.

So aside from their initial introductions and recruitment conversations, like the scene of Charon killing Ahzrukhal, or finding Fawkes in Vault 87, I felt like I didn't have much to draw upon for writing the companions, and I ended up inventing a lot of their personalities wholesale.

In the case of Charon, you may notice I cribbed significantly from Raul Tejada of New Vegas, such as the way he calls the Wanderer "boss," just because there's so little to go on in terms of how the two would talk to each other otherwise. In the game, Charon doesn't talk much in general, seems mostly indifferent to the Lone Wanderer, and I think he's supposed to be kind of a brainwashed slave? So to make him interesting to write about, I had to have him gradually come out of his shell as the Wanderer attempts to form a connection with him, and as a result, when he eventually does start to warm up to the Wanderer, he's almost like an entirely different character, because it's a whole other side to him that I essentially made up. I often worry that he might even come off as out of character when he's actually bantering or showing concern for the Wanderer's wellbeing, but it's too late to do anything about that now anyway, and I guess it works fine for the story's purposes.

With Star Paladin Cross, I was essentially doing the same thing. For her, all I had to go on was one conversation in the Citadel, which I barely remembered and had only a wiki page to consult for. But her good karma requirements and her personal connection to the Wanderer through her history and friendship with James did inspire me through their potential to come into conflict, and when I thought about how the Lone Wanderer might see her in return, the conversation scene in this chapter was the natural result. I don't think it's much, and again, I don't know if it's even particularly in-character for Cross, but at least it's something, and she's not just an occasionally mentioned background element like Dogmeat.

It's also a much better outcome for her character than what happened to her in my actual playthrough, where I left her to wait in Bailey's Crossroads while I went through the Anchorage simulation, and the Outcasts murdered her while I was in the pod. That would've been funny in its own way, but yeah, I think I prefer this.

Week Fifteen:

In retrospect, I wish I'd written an intermediary rant for the Wanderer after the Enclave first appeared, so that his souring on pre-war nostalgia was more gradual, and didn't feel like such a 180 in this chapter, but I still consider this important character development for him.

One of the central themes of the Fallout series is nostalgia and the idealisation of the past, and how people repeating history without learning from it just leads to the same mistakes - i.e. "war never changes." It's most prominently seen in the way factions and characters pine for the world that was, without remembering all the things that were awful about it or learning the relevant lessons. The NCR uncritically emulates the ideal of pre-war America, while also consequently inheriting its corruption, inefficiency, and imperialism. Caesar's Legion emulates Rome without remembering why Rome fell. Mr. House emulates pre-war corporatism, along with all of its dehumanising aspects. And on a meta level, the world of Fallout itself emulated the fifties for over one hundred and twenty years instead of moving on like we did, and look how well that turned out for them.

This theme of Old World Blues (as New Vegas calls it) isn't as strongly expressed in the Bethesda entries of Fallout. I mean, it's there, kind of, but it's not as emphasised. So I wanted to express it in this story at least, by having the Wanderer learn through experience one of the most important lessons that characters in this series can learn – that the old world was not perfect, and that wastelanders should try to learn from it and do better, not idealise it and repeat the same mistakes. Not that this matters too much in the grand scheme of things, since the Lone Wanderer is not a faction leader building his own nation like the Courier or Sole Survivor are, but it's still an important lesson for him on a personal level.

Week Sixteen:

Wanderer's Diary was first written in 2013, back when I was just starting out as a fanfic writer, so most of the issues I've been correcting in the rewrite were fairly amateurish mistakes. There were spelling and grammar errors, of course, since I never had an editor in those days, but quite a lot of the rewrite so far has been correcting stylistic errors just to make the story look better. I used to render ellipses without a space at the end, which I don't like the look of anymore, and the audio transcripts in particular needed a lot of cleaning up. The descriptive tags in the transcripts used to have periods inside the brackets, and I didn't used to put spaces between multiple tags, and just had them all clustered together instead. I think it looked really messy. Though by far the biggest change has been altering the contents of those tags themselves to account for what the auto-transcript software would realistically be able to pick up and identify, so I made a lot of the tags less specifically descriptive. They should also hopefully be more consistent and less clunkily worded now, too.

The only thing I'm intentionally not correcting for is my British English spelling. In fact, I've actually been changing a lot of American spelling in the original back to British, even though the Lone Wanderer is American, because I want to keep the story's spelling consistent, but as a Brit, I just can't consistently write in American English. The lack of vowels makes my monocle pop off in disgust, and I have to keep fighting the urge to impose heavy taxes on you people for your overuse of the letter Z. So this is the next best alternative. It's just a style choice, though; this story is but a window into the Wanderer's world. In-universe, I like to imagine that he's actually writing these entries just like any other red-blooded American would, not with all these fancy vowels like I use. He probably hates tea too, the barbarian.

Week Seventeen:

*Spooky ghost noises*

Week Eighteen:

The latter half of Fallout 3's main story is significantly more cinematic and full of big action setpieces than the first, which really only had Vault 101 and Tranquility Lane to speak of. It certainly feels bigger and more interesting than anything else going on until that point, though it's also unfortunately the point where the story really starts to fall apart. Convincing President Eden to kill himself in a single speech check is so baffling already that I couldn't even make a joke about it, because nothing I came up with was funnier than the fact that this actually happens in the game. Though for my money, Colonel Autumn's completely unexplained survival, completely unexplained appearance in Vault 87, and completely unavoidable capture of the Lone Wanderer is all far more confusing.

Like I said, Wanderer's Diary is not a fixfic, so I'm not just here to bitch about Fallout 3's story or try to justify its every mistake. Colonel Autumn's survival and what he was doing in Vault 87 isn't explained in Fallout 3, and it's not really explained in this fic either. But I did want to at least explain how it is that the Lone Wanderer could possibly be captured with not just Fawkes, but also several other companions nearby. Sure, in game mechanic terms, they're just automatons that follow you around and help you in combat, and you're not in combat in cutscenes. But from a story perspective, I'd like to think that they'd be a little more proactive in saving their friend, like Fawkes is.

Week Nineteen:

Writing fanfic of an ongoing series is always a risky prospect if you intend to be canon compliant, which believe it or not, I actually do try to be. My headcanons and the story's events can get pretty out there at points, but I try not to ever outright contradict any of the series' lore. At the time of writing, Wanderer's Diary was pretty much canon compliant, with a few small exceptions which I'm patching up as I go. But for the most part, sticking to canon when writing Fallout fanfic is easy, because the games allow for such a wide range of possible outcomes, and the sequels tend to leave it open-ended which outcomes actually happened, so there's a lot of wiggle room. Not to mention there's a bias towards good karma choices, of course, so it's usually easy to guess which outcomes will be canon if a sequel ever does decide on one (though this does get a little messier when it comes to multi-faction choices like in Vegas and 4).

But sometimes you don't want to go with the obvious, and Fallout 4 felt like a thousand years away in 2013, so yeah, I took a few risks here and there. Having the Wanderer kill both factions in the Pitt was one of them, because naturally, if Fallout 4 had ever happened to reveal the fate of the Pitt at any point, Bethesda would have naturally written it so that the Lone Wanderer made one of the two choices actually available in the game. Leaving the whole place an empty ruin was probably never really in the cards, so that one was particularly vulnerable to getting blown out by future canon, and it still is.

Fortunately, that particular case didn't end up happening, but some stuff actually did get contradicted by Fallout 4. For one thing, the Wanderer wiped out the Brotherhood Outcasts in this story, whereas in canon they eventually reintegrated into Maxson's Brotherhood. And of course, I also strongly implied in this chapter that the Enclave abducted and killed the children of Little Lamplight, when MacCready would go on to feature as a companion to the Sole Survivor ten years later in Fallout 4. These are all things I'm leaving unchanged for now, but I actually do plan to address all of these discrepancies eventually. Keep an eye on my other stories. All I'm saying.

Week Twenty:

I try not to spend too much time in these author's notes ranting about or criticising Fallout 3, because I do mostly like the game, and I assume that most of my readers do too, if they're willing to read over a hundred thousand words about it. But it really must be said, I think Fallout 3 has one of the worst endings of any video game I've ever played.

Liberty Prime is a cool action setpiece, but the final quest has zero challenge to it. Colonel Autumn is a pretty pathetic final boss, and a fairly confusing and underdeveloped character. In terms of choice or roleplaying, you have very few options, since the game forces you to side with the Brotherhood and fight the Enclave, even if you're working for President Eden, and the choice to work for President Eden itself makes zero sense, because then you're just going out of your way to commit a genocide that includes yourself. Why is genocide an option, but not siding with Autumn's more moderate faction?

And then there's the purifier, which is highly irradiated for some reason, and the game is absolutely dead-set on railroading you into a pointless suicide. Even if you have multiple radiation-immune companions right there who can do it for you, like Fawkes or Charon or Sergeant RL-3, they'll just straight-up tell you to fuck off and die, even though it makes absolutely no sense for them to do so. Fawkes literally owes you a life debt, and you own the other two. The fact that they even can say no is a plot hole, let alone the fact that they do.

And then the game just ends. Unless you bought the DLC of course, which is almost as bad. I mean, the contrivances and plot holes are stupid, but if it was just Bethesda's artistic vision that the player's story ends with either their self-sacrifice or refusing the call and letting it all blow up, I could begrudgingly understand. But then they actually walked back on it, retconned the player's death to let the game continue, and finally let us take the sensible and obvious option of having our companions do it. But the sensible option still costs $5, and Ron Perlman still calls you a bitch for refusing to kill yourself, like the writers were salty over the players outsmarting this contrived set-up. It just leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

Though, in lighter news, I've actually been replaying Fallout 3 lately for the first time in years, after finally getting the damn thing to run in Windows 10. It took some work, let me tell you, and it needed a few additional mods to spice it up and smooth out some of those bugs and annoyances, but I'm enjoying traversing the Capital Wasteland again after all this time, and the feel of the Chinese assault rifle is so incredibly satisfying. It's the one weapon I always missed in New Vegas. Maybe later I'll talk a little about my insights from my new playthrough.

Week Twenty-One:

One commenter on Fanfic.net complained that I did this blank chapter thing twice, commenting that it loses the impact the second time around. To be clear, the impact wasn't the reason I did this; I think that it was always pretty clear that the Wanderer's story was never going to end with the assault on the purifier, so it's not like there would be any tension either way. I just have two of these blank chapters in the story because it just so happens that Fallout 3 itself does this twice. The player is knocked unconscious and the calendar skips ahead two weeks both after being captured in Vault 87, and between the endgame and Broken Steel. No idea why a flashbang knocks out the Lone Wanderer for two whole weeks, but there you go.

Nonetheless, I think that the commenter in question may have had a point. The second blank chapter probably isn't necessary, and if there are any similarly long timeskips in New Vegas (like maybe travelling to Zion in Honest Hearts?), I'll probably just skip them next time for Courier's Journal.

Week Twenty-Two:

So as I've been replaying Fallout 3, I've taken the opportunity to do a playalong with Wanderer's Diary while I'm at it. Like I said, the story doesn't actually follow any real playthrough I did, so this is my first time going through the game like my protagonist did. So far I'm only just wiping out Fort Independence, but already I've run into a few notable divergences from the story.

For one thing, I had to go through the Warrington tunnels, talk to Roy Phillips, and do most of the "peaceful" route of Tenpenny Tower right away, including forcing out the anti-ghoul residents, because if I didn't do all that before killing Tenpenny, there's no way to get the ghouls to peacefully move in and betray the humans later (which has to happen, since I can't re-enact the Tenpenny Tower revolution in-game). Consequently, from doing that quest early, I'm also levelling up a lot faster than I anticipated while originally writing.

There's also a lot of gameplay differences. I'm coming across a much greater weapon variety than anticipated, having already acquired a sniper rifle, hunting rifle, submachine gun, Chinese officer sword, and other items which I didn't write the Wanderer finding until much later. I have more skill books than I should, because there are more minor unmarked locations on my routes than I thought, the sort that you tend to overlook when writing a story based solely on wiki consultation. And of course, I'm one of those players who likes to loot everything, so I get overencumbered a lot, and have already had to cheat by using fast travel to quickly drop off and sell things in Megaton. I guess the Lone Wanderer in this story is just a lot more picky than I am.

For the record, even though this is my first time actually playing along like this, I did keep meticulous documentation of the Wanderer's hypothetical stats throughout the story when I was originally writing it, which I've been using as my guide for this playthrough. I've shared these documents with people before, as I actually have had fans previously messaging me asking how to build the Wanderer for their own playalongs (Hi, Selacha! Yes, I did see your reddit post! I'm a narcissist; of course I google my own stories frequently). So if you want to do your own playalong, you can find my stat reports here, though be warned, like I said, your actual gameplay experience may vary wildly, especially when it comes to the RNG elements.

Week Twenty-Three:

In many ways, Fallout 3 is like a soft reboot of the series. It remains in continuity with the original games, but it recycles many of their elements and plot points in a new setting and context to reintroduce the world of Fallout for a new audience (e.g. the return of the Enclave, the super mutants, the Brotherhood of Steel, etc). Vault 101 does this for the concept of the vaults, and the Lone Wanderer himself is Bethesda's variation on the Vault Dweller of Fallout 1, a canonically male lone hero who leaves his vault in search of something, eventually finds it, and returns home, only to then be exiled because the overseer can't stand his gross wasteland smell.

However, I personally think that this doesn't really work in Fallout 3 like it did in the original. Overseer Jacoren was a dick, and the game was well aware of this, so it fit his character to have him exile the Vault Dweller for the "greater good" after he just saved their skins. Not to mention that whether by the player's own hand in the game itself, or because of people of Vault 13 afterwards according to the lore, he got his just desserts for this in the end. Likewise, Overseer Alphonse Almodovar is a major dick who usually gets what he deserves, so if it had somehow been him doing the exiling in Trouble on the Homefront, then I think it would've worked as a callback.

But coming from Amata, supposedly your childhood best friend? Yeah, not really. I mean, I can understand it if you killed both her dad and Overseer Mack, but this still happens even if you resolve the quest peacefully and Alphonse steps down willingly. It doesn't really make sense, and I think it's one of several areas in the game where Bethesda was trying too hard to force a callback to the original games when they should've just gone with what made sense instead. I mean, I don't see any good reason why Vault 101 couldn't have become an open settlement afterwards, especially since opening up the vault to the wasteland was the rebel faction's entire motivation, but oh well. Que sera sera.

Week Twenty-Four:

When the Wanderer went through the Pitt, he was pushed to a psychological extreme. He made a series of terrible mistakes which ended with a lot of people dead, and in the process came away with an adopted daughter, a newfound craving for human flesh, and a whole load of guilt issues, all of which served a story purpose. The guilt put him in a dark place mentally, and pushed him to his attempted suicide after James's death. Marie serves as a morality chain, another link to the world to keep the Wanderer grounded and thinking about other people now that he doesn't have his father for it. And the cannibalism was just to facilitate jokes, because I think cannibalism is hilarious when used right (though I still personally find serious depictions of it disturbing).

Anyway, I mention all this because I think of this chapter as a kind of inverse to that one. The Wanderer goes into this chapter already in a state of extreme emotional distress, and the events he goes through and the choices he makes chills him out. Just as the Pitt is one of the darkest settings of Fallout 3, I consider Oasis to be one of the most pleasant and hopeful. And just like the Pitt pushed the Wanderer into despair so that the death of James would hit him all the harder, Oasis gives the Wanderer a hopeful new outlook on life just as the Capital Wasteland is finally getting better in Broken Steel. And of course, both chapters play with the Wanderer gaining a significant new perk - Cannibal in Week Eleven, and Nuclear Anomaly here (or at least my twist on it).

As for the Lone Wanderer's name reveal, yeah, there are a lot of implications behind that one, though I think I can count on one hand the number of commenters who've ever actually picked up on what I was going for there without me needing to explain it. So if you're still confused, then for the record, no, he's not actually Caesar, though there is a connection there. As a reminder, in Week Thirteen, the Wanderer had a conversation with Cross in which she revealed to him that he was named after an uncle from way out west. So yes, in this setting, James is actually James Sallow, (adoptive) younger brother of Edward Sallow (AKA Caesar), and he was raised with him in the Followers of the Apocalypse. This is where James got both his extensive education and his idealism, both otherwise somewhat uncommon qualities in the wasteland.

Week Twenty-Five:

So as I said before, the Wanderer's murderous tendencies in this fic are a kind of jab at the oddities of Fallout 3's karma system, and part of that is the way the game treats killing, because Fallout 3 is a game that expects you to kill. You can run a pacifist character for at least a good portion of most Fallout games, but Fallout 3 is clearly not built for it. Sure, at points you have the option to stop, talk things out, and spare someone's life, but they're few and far between, and there's no real way to avoid violence in general. And sure, maybe that's realistic for the wasteland, but right from the get-go in Vault 101, you have to murder your way through vault security to get out, because the alternative is that they'll chase you to the ends of the earth. So no matter what kind of character you play in Fallout 3, the Lone Wanderer is always a killer. And you don't lose karma for this, so the game's objective morality system seems to be pretty firmly in the camp that violence is necessary here.

So this makes it a little weird when the game sometimes stops and gives you the opportunity to talk things out and spare some major character like the Overseer or Colonel Autumn. After all, I had no choice but to slaughter my way through the rest of the vault to reach the Overseer, and he's the one responsible for all of this in the first place, so why would I ever stop at him? The game has already established at this point that killing people is fine and expected, so it's not like we're encouraged to place some intrinsic value on human life. And mechanically, the game incentivises the opposite, because sparing lives rarely ever has a point in Fallout 3. It doesn't avoid a fight, because you've already had to fight them, and you don't get any rewards or additional options for it. Even if you spare the Overseer, you still get banished from the vault later. And all that sparing Colonel Autumn does is deprive you of the chance to take his sweet-ass coat. So really, why not kill them too? Sometimes you even get good karma for it.

So this is another reason why I characterised the Wanderer as a crazed killer, because just like the player, once he started killing, he didn't have any good reason to stop. And in a way, he still doesn't. As of this chapter, he's making a conscious effort to be better and to place a greater value on human life, but even when he does try to take the high road, it doesn't work out anyway. He tries to spare Split Jack's gang, but then they immediately murder someone, and he ends up killing them all anyway, because that's just the kind of game Fallout 3 is, I guess. It's like I said, it's a game that incentivises killing.

And the funny thing is that the Wanderer actually does manage to spare the radical Children of Atom sect in Springvale, and he thinks he's done well, but then years later by Fallout 4, they've morphed into an entire army of murderous fanatics, so he probably should have killed them all. I didn't even plan for that. That was entirely accidental. But it adds another layer of irony to the Wanderer's character development that I really enjoy. He really is the hero the wasteland deserves.

Week Twenty-Six:

The longer Wanderer's Diary went on, the more I started diverging from the possibilities that the game allowed for and into wholly original territory. Dr. Lesko moving to Shalebridge and having a whole redemption arc about continuing his experiments with the ants is an example of such an invented change from the games. So here's my thoughts on that, bearing in mind my stated intent to remain canon compliant.

My approach to canon in Wanderer's Diary is that the games defined the world and the other characters in it, and that all of that is set in stone. So aside from my original additions and interpretations (i.e. headcanons like explaining where the Wanderer's perks come from), I don't usually change much about the world and characters. Of course, the game gives you a limited number of interactions with other characters, because there's only so much dialogue, so of course characters in Wanderer's Diary will occasionally say and do things that they couldn't in the game. That's unavoidable. You can't treat Lucas Simms as an actual person in a living world and also assume that he never says or does anything interesting ever again after you first meet him, even with major shit going on like the Enclave's appearance. But I try not to have characters do anything wildly off course from what they usually would in the game.

So if I ever do change anything in a big way in the story, whether it be the other characters doing something unusual, or a situation emerging or resolving in a way that the game doesn't allow for, it's usually a character-driven change, caused by something the Wanderer has directly done. Somah never normally returns directly to Paradise Falls in Fallout 3, but I figure if the Wanderer's comments about killing slavers spooked her enough, then maybe she would've done for safety's sake. James never normally stays with the player on the trip back from Vault 112, but if his son was that emotional and needy, then maybe he would have. They're not possibilities that the game accounts for or expects, but I think they're generally realistic and logical enough, and like I said before, I usually try not to put in anything that's likely to be blown out by future canon.

The way I see it, when you play Fallout 3, the rest of the world is set in stone at the start (excluding RNG elements, of course), and it's James and the Lone Wanderer who change it. What makes each playthrough different is who the Lone Wanderer happens to be each time. That's the player's part in deciding the outcome of the world. We decide the Lone Wanderer's appearance, personality, and abilities, and also retroactively decide elements of James's appearance to match them. So if we imagine the world of Fallout 3 as a series of branching alternate timelines, with the identity of James being the divergence point that causes a different Wanderer to be born in each branch, then we can see how this allows for an extremely wide range of possible outcomes.

Now, in the narrative of Fallout 3 itself, there are still a lot of restrictions on just what kind of person the Lone Wanderer can be, especially taking future canon into account. The Lone Wanderer is always the child of James and Catherine who lives in Vault 101, always nineteen years old at the start of the game, evidently does not have the genes to become a ghoul rather than just die from radiation poisoning, and the limited dialogue options you have and things you can do show the limits of the Wanderer's knowledge and abilities. For example, the Wanderer mechanically cannot craft weapon mods out of old scrap like you can in Fallout 4, so I tend to assume that he either doesn't know how to or that it just never occurs to him within the course of the game.

But again, I like to write characters as dynamic people who grow and change over time, and writing characters realistically and writing them as static game objects who can only fulfil a limited number of functions or say a limited number of things are mutually exclusive. So yes, at first the Wanderer fits into the pre-defined molds the game allows for, but eventually he outgrows them and starts thinking of more creative solutions and divergent possibilities, like painting his Enclave armour to not be mistaken for the enemy, or informing Dr. Lesko about Shalebridge. Sure, the game doesn't let you do it, but there's no good reason why the Wanderer as a character in this world could never think of it. And if the identity and personality of the Lone Wanderer is the one thing that I as the player get to define about the world of Fallout 3, and all the consequences that come along with that, then this is who I say the Lone Wanderer is, and this is what I say he does.

And yes, for the record, I'm aware that I'm a pretentious wanker. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go clean all this semen off my screen now.

Week Twenty-Seven:

One of the many reasons I wanted to port Wanderer's Diary over to AO3 was my dissatisfaction with Fanfic.net as a platform. AO3 has its problems too (especially compared to FimFiction, where I'm used to uploading) but Fanfic.net is a relic of the early internet, and in general a terrible platform for hosting written fiction. Oh sure, it has an audience, which I appreciate, but the site's features leave much to be desired.

That was made abundantly clear to me when I uploaded the original version of Week Twenty-Seven, in which I still used periods for acronyms. The name of the actual computer from Broken Steel is supposed to be "M.A.R.Go.T." But on Fanfic.net, her name was instead consistently displayed as "M.A. .T." And there's absolutely no way to fix this; it's just built into the site's code that the document manager breaks the character's name, because for some reason which I'm sure made sense back in the Stone Age when it was first coded, Fanfic.net absolutely hates links, website addresses, and anything that even remotely looks like them. I actually ended up having to rename the character to "Margaret" in-story in the next chapter to get around this. So it's my hope that by rewriting the story to remove all periods from all acronyms, I can maybe get MARGoT's name to display properly once I upload this rewrite to Fanfic.net.

On an unrelated note, the Wanderer in this chapter mentions Dogmeat almost dying in the presidential metro on the way to Adams Air Force Base. This is actually a reference to my own original playthrough of Broken Steel, where Dogmeat actually did die there. Or rather, I let him die there.

Unlike in later games, companions were not essential in Fallout 3, and could often die in fights if you didn't heal them, so I was always reloading my game whenever Charon or Dogmeat died. But as I got into the higher levels, the enemies just outpaced Dogmeat. He was dying in every single fight unless I hovered over him the whole time, healing him every other minute. And healing was itself pretty clunky in Fallout 3, because it had to be done through dialogue. This was before the companion wheel of New Vegas or the convenient heal button of Fallout 4. So it got to be more hassle than it was worth, and eventually I just gave up. We beat the ghouls in the presidential metro, but Dogmeat died at the last minute. And at that point, I was like... "Fuck it, that's as good an ending for him as any. Hell, the original Dogmeat canonically died in action too."

I'm so fucking glad that Vegas and 4 made companions essential.

Week Twenty-Eight:

MARGoT the power armour AI was one of my personal favourite ideas from this story, and I wish I hadn't introduced her so late, so that I could've done more with her. For as big a deal as I make of her here, she's kind of underused. Hopefully I'll get to use her again in another story sometime, if I have the chance.

So anyway, Point Lookout. I decided on Point Lookout as the final stretch of the story for a few different reasons, as will become clear in the final few chapters, but I've got to admit that a big part of it is simply that it was my personal favourite of the DLCs. Broken Steel and Mothership Zeta might have more of a feeling of epic finality to them, respectively wrapping up the main story with the Enclave and raising the stakes for the Lone Wanderer higher than ever before, but Point Lookout just has a much more interesting setting and atmosphere in my opinion, and is just a quality DLC in general, with a large new open map, lots to find in it, and lots to do.

To give a quick round-up of my thoughts on the other DLCs:

Operation Anchorage was somewhat of a misstep. It was an entirely linear series of quests which eschewed RPG elements entirely in favour of a pure first-person shooter experience. I'm not against this genre shift in principle, but it probably wasn't a very good idea for Fallout 3 in particular, considering that its shooting mechanics are fairly mediocre. I mean, the game doesn't even have iron sights. Seeing Anchorage was interesting, I guess, but you can't even return to it after completing the simulation, and have to do it all in one go, so it's a very limited experience, and ultimately the most forgettable DLC in my opinion. The only thing it's really good for is all the new items and getting power armour training early.

The Pitt was a fantastic new setting, and probably my second favourite of the DLCs, with interesting new characters, and a complex moral dilemma of the kind that I wish Fallout 3 had a lot more of. 10/10 for story and setting, though the quests and moment-to-moment gameplay left something to be desired. You don't really get to explore much of the Pitt. The only real open area that you spend a significant amount of time in is the Steelyard (or at least that was the case for me, because I'm a completionist and I needed all those steel bars). For me, 90% of my memories of the Pitt are the Steelyard, and I just wanted more time hanging out with the slaves, or fighting in the Hole, or working with the Pitt raiders.

Broken Steel is the most essential DLC since it retcons Fallout 3's horrible ending and lets you continue the game instead of just ending your playthrough, and I appreciate it for that, but it should have been free. I also unfortunately think that it's not as poetic an ending for the main story as Take it Back! Sure, it's full of cool moments like the Olney Powerworks, or the presidential metro, or blowing up the mobile base crawler, but it loses the emotional thread of Project Purity, and without Colonel Autumn or President Eden, the Enclave becomes a completely faceless enemy. It's just not as personal a story anymore, and I think it loses something for that. Still top three, though.

And finally, Mothership Zeta was zany, wacky fun, and I greatly enjoyed it, though again it was fairly linear, and you can't return to several areas, which annoys me somewhat. I know some people were bothered by the idea of the aliens being anything other than a joke or easter egg, but I personally have no problem with it.

On a final note, this chapter was also the subject of the first and only piece of fanart I ever received for Wanderer's Diary:

This is Feeling Whimsical by Armalite, one of my long-time FimFiction followers, and a general cool guy. He drew this like seven years ago now, but I've kept it on my computer ever since, and I love it dearly. Thanks, Armalite, for being a part of this bizarre saga.

Week Twenty-Nine:

So I think it's obvious by this point in the story that there's something more going on with the Wanderer. This isn't something I ever wanted to directly spell out in the story itself, but for those of you who aren't familiar with the franchise and are still confused, yeah, this whole Nuclear Anomaly subplot is a massive Doctor Who reference. I know the story isn't tagged as a crossover, but that's just because the crossover element isn't really a focus (and it would be spoiling). It's just kind of a background lore thing that I use as a source of comedy, because Nuclear Anomaly is a weird perk already, and this makes it even more bewildering. But I actually have written a real Doctor Who crossover inspired by the TARDIS random encounter from Fallout 1, which I will be uploading here soon, and which is in fact in continuity with this story, so this isn't just totally random.

This is also one of the few major deviations from canon that I made for the story, because like I said, Fallout 3 places a lot of restrictions on who exactly the Lone Wanderer can be, and although the Wanderer can certainly be someone who explodes like a mini nuke when he gets injured, the Nuclear Anomaly perk still doesn't work quite like this in-game.

But following my previous thread of conceptualising Fallout 3 as a series of branching alternate timelines, with the identity of James being the divergence point which determines who the Lone Wanderer is born as, the Teddy Sallow Wanderer is still the way he is because of who James Sallow was. There's a whole lot of unspoken backstory and headcanon here going into this, some of which I've seeded throughout the rest of the story, and some of which you might even be able to guess. A lot of it will probably figure more into future stories, but for now, it's not really important, so I wouldn't worry about it. Just enjoy the crazy man doing his crazy things, and if you care about the crossover elements, there will be another story for that later.

Week Thirty:

I generally try to match the tone of Wanderer's Diary to the tone of whatever part of the game it's going through. The story as a whole is pretty dark, anarchic, and crazy, like the wasteland in general, but it occasionally stops and takes itself a bit more seriously when major developments happen in the main story of Fallout 3. And of course, the DLCs each had their own distinct tones that I tried to emulate as well in my own way. The Pitt was one of the darkest, and so was also one of the Wanderer's personal lowest points. Mothership Zeta was crazy, zany fun, so the Wanderer was drunk and high and out of his mind for a good part of it. Broken Steel was about the wasteland's recovery and the Enclave's final defeat, so the Wanderer was in a more positive and hopeful mindset by then. And of course, Operation Anchorage was a forgettable flash in the pan, so I barely did anything with it. Hiyoooo!

Well, one of the many reasons why I enjoy Point Lookout as much as I do is because of its incredibly creepy atmosphere. Fans often tout the atmosphere as one of Fallout 3's major strengths compared to New Vegas, and to an extent I agree, but I think Point Lookout had by far the best atmosphere of any part of the game. There's just something great about it, and it makes me really excited to eventually play Far Harbour for my Survivor's Testament test playthrough, because if it recaptures even a fraction of what I loved about Point Lookout, then it'll probably be my favourite part of Fallout 4. But so far, you may have noticed that the Point Lookout chapters of Wanderer's Diary have maintained a mostly comedic tone, just like the rest of the story. So far, they haven't really captured that creepy, unsettling atmosphere from the DLC that I loved so much.

That's because I'm saving it for the Dunwich Building.

Week Thirty-One:

In the eternal Fallout 3 vs. New Vegas debate, I think I'm pretty firmly in the New Vegas camp, but if there's one thing that I find really intriguing about Bethesda's Fallout which is almost entirely absent from the Black Isle/Obsidian entries in the series, it's the supernatural elements and the influence that Bethesda takes from the works of HP Lovecraft. I'm not an avid reader of Lovecraft or cosmic horror in general, but I've enjoyed many other works influenced by him (most especially Bloodborne), so the gradual encroachment of cosmic horror elements into the Fallout series has been genuinely fascinating to me, and really fires up my imagination. I actually watched a video essay about this very recently, and I've got to say, it's probably the only video I've ever watched that actually made me want to play Fallout 76.

So of course I wanted to give the Dunwich Building the respect it deserves to finish out the last of the regular gameplay content of the story, and to finally write a chapter which matches the creepy tone of both Dunwich and the Point Lookout DLC, even if we're no longer in Point Lookout itself. It's also important set-up for the next chapter and for the actual finale of the story, and a driving factor in the last leg of the Lone Wanderer's character development.

Speaking of which, I suppose I should talk about that. The Lone Wanderer's turn towards religion comes rather late in the story, but it's something that I was building towards for quite a while, foreshadowed early on with moments like his regret after nearly dying to the deathclaw, and his day of attending church in Rivet City way back when. I don't think he started getting really spiritual until after he mellowed out in Oasis, though, since that's when he began forgiving his enemies and trying to show mercy where possible. And of course, all the creepy, supernatural, and Lovecraftian elements he came into contact with in Point Lookout and Dunwich caused him to fall back on religion as a defence, which I think makes sense from a character standpoint, especially after having just met a missionary. I imagine him as having had a Christian upbringing in the vault with James as well, though obviously he didn't really buy into it until this point.

For the record, I actually do interpret James as a Christian character in Fallout 3, or at least someone who was raised Christian. After all, his entire life's work was inspired by a Bible quote, and it would explain his boundless potential for forgiveness. Not to mention that there's actually a Christian church in Rivet City, where he was most likely born and raised, though obviously this doesn't apply to James in this story; James Sallow was instead first exposed to the Bible by the New Canaanites during his time with the Followers of the Apocalypse.

Week Thirty-Two:

One Man and a Crate of Puppets is one of the more absurd entries in Fallout canon, but near as I can tell, it is in fact canon. You can even find the Puppet Man's vault suit at Paradise Falls in Fallout 3, and indeed, the Wanderer did so earlier in the story. So I thought to myself, after finishing everything else off, and having my protagonist complete everything that the game itself had to offer, how do I wrap things up? And I could think of no more appropriate way to end it all than to have the most powerful man in the wasteland get the absolute shit beaten out of him for an entire chapter by a joke character from an obscure promotional comic.

I regret nothing. Do you hear me? I'd do it all again, and none of you could stop me.

Week Thirty-Three:

I'd like to close out this story by linking you to "The Wanderer" by Dion, the unofficial theme of Wanderer's Diary.

I would also like to state for the record that I discovered this song and chose it for this fic before Bethesda used it for Fallout 4. And I'm not just proud of myself for that; I'm smug about it.

Courier's Journal:

And that concludes the Wanderer's Diary rewrite. Can't believe I managed to upload the whole thing before getting even a single comment here, but that's the market for you. Or maybe it's just the timing and frequency of my chapter releases? I don't know. I'm new to AO3.

I'll be continuing to upload the rest of my Fallout stories here for the foreseeable future, so if you liked this story, then be sure to also check out Wanderer's Diary: Other Sides, Courier's Journal, Survivor's Testament, Vault Dweller's Log, The Doctor and the Master, and whatever the hell else I've put up here at the time you're reading this. And if you didn't like it, well... I'm sorry?

Just as I did with the original version, I'd also like to close out with a special thanks to my friends Draven Eclipse and Spiffy, whose reading along and live reactions were a great encouragement to me when I was first writing this; the Dark Lord Potter forums, the first people to ever provide in-depth criticism on the story for me; the writers of the Fallout wikia, whose work was an invaluable resource in this story's writing; and Reeve X and Armalite, for their dedication to their story, and their much appreciated fan productions. And of course, thanks to all of you for reading as well.

Fuck Ian West, though.

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