For those that don’t know, or were wondering, Harold the ghoul is in fact in Fallout 3. Harold is a “special” kind of ghoul (in more then one sense) that was in the original games. He is probably best known for being the ghoul with a tree (named Bob) growing out of his head. But yeah– not only is he in the new game in a brilliant nod to the originals, he also offers the most morally ambiguous and thought provoking side quest I’ve come across in the game thus far.
So when you come across this hidden away location called “Oasis” you are first greeted by the two gate keepers dressed in clothes made of what looks like foliage. They tell you simply that “he” is waiting for you and predicted your arrival. So at this point I’m like okay, WTF? But I can kill them all if this goes south, so I’ll hear them out. You are let into a beautiful little forest area, devoid of technology, filled with more of these people. It soon becomes apparent that they are caretakers worshiping the forest and a “tree god” that made this all possible.
Their “god” saw you approaching and told them to ask for your assistance. After a weird ritual thing, you find yourself in a different part of their forest and soon come across a talking tree. Long story short, “Bob” kept growing and growing until Harold was trapped in this location (as part of a tree) and the oasis from the desolate wastes you’re in now is the end result of this. Getting to the point: Harold wants you to kill him, by going into underground caves and destroying his heart. He is bored out of his mind, etc, and dreads the fact that he will live a very long life in this condition.
Now, it is pretty standard practice in Fallout that cult-like groups like this are shady, but these people seem pretty benevolent so I’ll talk to them. Again, long story short: they are aware of Harold’s wish but see it a test and not a literal desire. You get two options from these guys. Stunt/stop the tree’s reproduction so that the Oasis will stop spreading and can stay obscure and therefore safer from the people that might find it and try to exploit or ruin it. OR- you can cause the tree to reproduce faster so that the Oasis that will spread much faster and help the wasteland around recover.
Now, killing Harold/Bob (via the heart or, interestingly, via fire) is clearly the negative -or even- the evil choice but, what about the other two? You’ve got- preserve the little paradise as it is (presumably) -or spread the goodness to the surrounding wastes in mere decades (also presumably). There is a lot of thought that can be put into those two choices, and this is not even considering Harold’s wishes. Of course, you could also just walk away and let the forest spread slowly as it would without your intervention.
The people of the forest don’t help much either, as they are pretty much split down the middle on the topic. I choose the option to spread the forest, thinking of the whole “greater good” thing and even Harold admits afterworlds that he was being selfish. Still, while I decided that was the best option, there were certainly reasons to go the other way. I’m interested to see what the ending for that is. The whole place could easily be razed because of my seemingly “good” choice.
**End of spoilers
I posted this because it is interesting to see Harold in the game. But more importantly, this is a great example of how the game can give you real choices for quests that are in that “gray area”. Now, honestly, many of the quests/choices are cut and dry good or evil but this one stood out as very interesting and is yet another example of how this game rocks. 😉