Following this is essentially a bit of a study I made to see if a Fallout game set in France could be envisioned – and could be made interesting.
Now, there is absolutely no way I am going to make such a game even as a mod – I don't have anything like the competence to pull it off. But who knows, if the idea seems fun, maybe it could inspire something from me or someone else.
Up until now, each and every Fallout game has taken place in the U.S.A. The pre-war America has been mostly well-documented, giving us the image of a horrific totalitarian government exploiting and screwing over its own population, teaming up with soulless companies for their own use while pretending to fight "communism" so as to quash attempts to stop their rise in power.
We have a lot of factions, some of them focusing on the old world like the Enclave and the Brotherhood of Steel, some trying to create a new future like the Institute or Caesar’s Legion (I am not saying the future they envision is desirable), or simply trying to rebuild some kind of society in the Wasteland like the NCR or the Minutemen.
I am not saying we should be done with the US, because obviously there is still a lot to discover and many opportunities to exploit (Texas, New Orleans, newly annexed Canada etc.). What I am saying is that we have a lot of material to take inspiration from to try and figure out what a Fallout game set in another country could look like. And so, I am making this piece to talk about my own country, France.
Wait, is it even possible? Isn’t Europe kind of destroyed?
As far as I can tell, Europe shouldn’t be destroyed in the Fallout world, no matter the year you set the game in.
The most important event for the European Commonwealth in the old world is the resources war with the Middle East, starting in 2054 and ending in 2060. The Fallout bible describes the end of the war as leaving both sides "almost to ruins". The war ended when the oil rigs ran dry in the Middle East, since there was no reason to fight anymore. Later, the European Commonwealth dissolved into a bunch of « bickering » nation states.
This suggests a few things:
- While « almost in ruins », there was still enough of society in the European Commonwealth to recreate the old nation states once it collapsed, meaning it wasn’t lawless and the infrastructure to run a country was still in place.
- Bickering is a weak word to describe what is often seen as a huge, devastating civil war.
- Since the goal of the Commonwealth was to acquire resources from the rest of the world, there were probably not a lot of resources in Europe itself. Without a reason to fight, the European countries had little reason to invade each other.
From which I gather that while the situation in Europe (and in my case, France) was certainly far from ideal, maybe even worse than in some current third-world hellholes, it was not a lifeless hulk.
Besides, I am working backward here. My goal is to create a setting that would work well for a Fallout game, not a completely objective look as to what France should look like. Of course, I will take as few liberties as possible with the official Fallout Lore, and I will try to be as « Fallout-realistic » as I can, but if there is a point that makes it absolutely impossible to work… I guess I would have to give up, but not before seeing if a tiiiiny little tweak would be enough to fit in.
French pre-war political system
What do we know about France in the official Lore?
Answer: mostly nothing.
We know it existed. We know the Vietnam War happened, and we can expect France to have lost it – if France had been able to keep their colonial empire, there would have been less reason to join the European Commonwealth as a united country; as long as France had their colonies, they could see themselves as a potential independent player in the Cold War or the Resource War.
It was part of the European Commonwealth, and was certainly a nuclear power as it is today.
How strong it was, and how much influence it had on the world, is mostly unknown.
Now, I have to extrapolate a lot on how French culture could have evolved on the Fallout world.
The main differences between the Fallout world that we know of are as such:
– There was no counterculture in America in the 60s, or at least it didn’t have a huge impact on their society.
– The transistor was not invented until late in the 21st century (apparently)
– The Red scare kept going for long, or at least it was reignited during the Resources War. At least we know America’s government turned into a totalitarian monster.
The lack of impact for the counterculture means that one of the most defining events in France during the second half of the 20th century, May 68, never happened. This is huge, but hard to tell how exactly it would have impacted France since everyone has a different interpretation as to how exactly it changed France. In a way, this gives me carte blanche into reimagining France – that’s a lot of power right here! And with great power…
I am not going to start a debate on May 68, but it is usually acknowledged that the main fight at the time was one of Individualism vs. Collectivism (as in the old structure of family and the country first). As Individualism “won” in a way at that time, it had a few impacts, like the gradual weakening of the power of the syndicates (most of them still keep lot of influence, but barely have any members) and the loss of influence of Communism in France.
Enough about that. How does it impact pre-war France, and (more importantly) how do we make it interesting?
Pre-war America was a totalitarian monster, technically capitalist but running everything from behind the scene. What if France (and by extension the European Commonwealth) was the opposite, as a caricature of what it is today? A technically strong government that is unable to get anything done because of the influence of many groups that all want something different?
This could give an interesting spin to what we would learn from pre-war society: government officials at the head of nationalized industries that constantly have to deal with riots, nationalist movements, rebelling companies, anti-nuclear organizations etc. (Of course the main lesson of the game wouldn’t be to blindly trust the government, so they should be really flawed as well).
Now, would this France be open to communism?
I would like to say “partly”. The main goal of communism is the abolition of the state in favor of a “commune-based” system where everything is shared between communes. If the communist party could keep a lot of influences on the state, even if they probably never got in power, they may have been able to strong-arm it into creating a few communes in France, as some sort of social experiment.
Plot twist: the communes are the ones who managed to create Vaults in France. Kidding for now, but who knows… At least it’s fodder for factions.
Considering how America is staunchly anti-communist before the Great War, they would be completely against it, naturally, which only makes the movement stronger. I expect anti-Americanism to run strong in France; even if the average French (and even their leaders) don’t know about how corrupt and evil the Enclave is, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to notice all the ugly stuff in America with their school / internment camps / etc. Even the Americans were rioting at the time, so the French would notice.
Back to the government. We are today in the 5th Republic, which held strong… sort of, since the General de Gaulle in 1958. With the creation of the European Commonwealth and its dissolution later, there may have been a few more Republics in Fallout France, one to accommodate the Commowealth, one quickly put in place after its fall, and they could be working on a 8th one to try and accommodate everyone.
Which means we are in the 7th Republic… I don’t think we really need the details on how it works, probably similar to the 5th since they are going back to the old system, but no one is really happy with it and that’s what matters – to the game.
French people pre-war
I have already established the French as being over-reliant on their government despite constantly complaining about it -not really different from today (ahem), but kind of pushed to its paroxysm.
With the Resource War ending in mostly a failure, I expect the French to push really hard for the end of the European Commonwealth, claiming it was unable to deal with the oil shortage efficiently. Now that I think about it, it seems weird that the European Commonwealth's answer to the shortage wasn't "let's find another energy source for our vehicles" but "let's invade a bunch of country which are our equal in strength". Maybe they were just as corrupt as the US in their own way. I don't want to have an European Enclave though… what to do with them?
Anyway, France. While everyone knew that something had to be done about the oil, no one agreed on the solution. Not exactly surprising, this happens all the time. And with the loss of a common and respected leader, in a country that certainly took quite a few hits from the Middle East during the war, everyone felt like now was the time to rebuild France – to their image, of course. I don't really expect a full-blown civil war, but near-constant riots were probably a thing.
In-game, the consequences would be that even when looking at pre-war buildings and such, there would be many differences in term of decoration, and probably already quite a few fortifications already made to protect yourself from the other side.
France and nuclear weapons
France is (and would have been in the Fallout world) a nuclear power. This shouldn’t have changed with the divergence in the Fallout world (in fact, they probably would have kept a huge stock of nuclear weapons if the other countries never agreed to a disarmament project).
The question is, what happened to the nuclear weapons with the European Commonwealth? Today France certainly isn’t sharing them with NATO or the European Union, but what if they were to join a federal union like the Commonwealth? Would they give them to a united European army?
I would have to say “no” to that one, I guess. The fact is that France developed their weapons before the European Commonwealth existed (there is no set date for the creation of the European Commonwealth, but I like to assume it happened during the first half of the 21th century and not before, since it’s essentially an advances European Union). That would make it weird to share their nuclear arsenal with other countries.
I don’t expect France to have fired all their nukes, either. There is little point for them since the US and China are already happily firing at each other. This would mean the current submarines are still patrolling the oceans, nukes at the ready.
Was France nuked?
My opinion is yes, for two reasons:
The first is that you can’t really have a Fallout omelet without nuking some eggs, so of course France was bombed, that’s just not Fallout otherwise.
The second is that, with the way the US was expecting events to unfold, it would be really unwise to let anyone in the world in the position to destroy them while they were stuck in their oil rig. Nuclear war is an easy way to get the rest of the world uniting against you, and you don’t want to have France of the USSR or anyone to start rebuilding themselves in the face of a common enemy, start scouring the world in search of the US/Chinese government, notice your oil rig and say “Hello” in the form of a nuclear missile launched from one of their submarines.
Meaning you have to occupy them at least for a while. And a nuke in the face would do it just fine.
Remember, the Enclave expected the fallout of the nuclear war to be rather short. Meaning they would have expected those not directly hit by the bomb to dust themselves rather quickly as well, and since I have already established that the state of the European countries wasn’t that bad, and no country bumped in Enclave business for what, 170 years? Make sense to assume (in my revised plot for a Fallout in France of course) that France and other European countries were nuked as well. Maybe twice in a row, if China had the same idea.
One thing I saw quite a few times in discussions about the state of Europe in Fallout is that, without the many firearms at their disposal like in America, the people in Europe would be defenseless against the many dangers in the wasteland.
This ignores one thing: contrary to expectations, there are actually quite a lot of firearms in France.
Officious numbers point to something between 10 million to 20 million firearms in France as of today. Many of them are used for hunting (which is really popular in rural areas), sports, potential self-defense for specific people, or just plain illegal weapons. Black market is huge in France, and is only getting bigger as the government passed anti-gun laws to make it harder to keep your weapon (even if the net result of those laws is a huge drop of the number of firearms in France).
Now imagine the amount of weapons in a world where the Resource War happened, and the power of the black market once the civil unrest following it kicks in. It’s not so weird to assume that before the bombs drop, each civilian had at least some sort of firearm at his side.
As such, I don’t see this as a deterrent for a Fallout game in France. Now, I haven't been able to find a proper study on which type of firearms are popular in France; but I guess you would find a lot of AK-47 in banlieues and cities like Marseilles where the black market thrives, hunting rifles in rural towns – and we need the FAMAS in military outposts (even if the army replaced it, come on, it's an icon).
Now that’s a huge point of contention. If I assume the bomb dropped, how do I explain people surviving without Vault-Tec?
The original reason America started their vault program (social experiment notwithstanding) is because of the Resource War, which scared them to the point they realized the world might really be about to end. Would France or the European Commonwealth have the same idea?
Maybe. But without the sociopathic American government that could cheerfully talk about protecting 0.1% of their populace while condemning even the majority of those people to horrifying experiments, they may not have tried to implement something of such epic scale like the Vaults.
And with the political unrest I already mentioned, with everyone expecting everything from the government, it wouldn’t be so surprising that nothing official gets done.
Instead, efforts to protect themselves from an eventual nuclear war would have to rest on the different communities in France. As I jokingly said before, it could be used by communists as an example of how you shouldn’t trust the corrupted officials and such.
While individual bunker are a possibility, they don’t seem to offer the opportunity to truly recreate a living ecosystem, or simply growing food. Not an impossible hurdle to surmount, but this means that even with bunkers, they would need real vaults to survive.
(Fun fact: apparently, Switzerland has a fuckton of bunkers – more than needed. Would France be invaded by Switzerland after the fallout?)
Of course, such vaults would be poorly made compared to Vault-Tec’s state of the art buildings. They would be crude, might be invaded later, and people would have to stop relying on them after a while. But they may allow part of the population to survive the War.
I don’t really intend to go on a complex description of each and every faction there could be in France, just a small list of all the ideas I had at some point:
- Communes: Communists towns, as mentioned before. Their objective would be to implement their form of stateless communes in the Wasteland.
- Aristocrats: A pre-war group comprised of the old monarchy and such. Their current leader would have proclaimed himself as King of France. Part of their goal is to erase every mention of the Republic to make themselves look like the legitimate rulers of France. An imperialist branch could do the same thing with the descendant of Napoleon.
- Légion Française: Inspired from the Légion Étrangère, they are an extremely brutal army, and their principal goal is revenge on the rest of the world. Wish to retrieve the nuclear bomb and seek America’s current leaders (clash with NCR members having moved to France somehow?)
- Remnants: Descendants of the last French governments, the player meet them constantly arguing with each other over what should be done. Hold the keys to the last of the French nukes.
- Sons of Armstrong: No, not the astronaut, or the singer. Lance Armstrong, the cyclist. A bunch of raiders traveling the wasteland on nuclear-assisted bicycles. Oh, and they’re on drugs, naturally.
- Pilgrims of the Last Testament: The Last Testament was written shortly after Tel-Aviv was nuked by a terrorist, by a survivor having moved back in France. Initially considered a joke, the cult exploded in popularity because of the Great War. They see the bomb as a messenger of the Apocalypse by God, and seek the prophet who would finally bring it to end. Depending on your actions, they may consider the protagonist as such.
- Roots: A pre-war organization, they were staunchly against the Resource War and the rampant nuclear technology, advocating instead the return to a pre-industrial lifestyle “in harmony with nature”. Mocked and disregarded (not always without reason), they now scourge the wasteland to destroy each and every sign of advanced technology (especially nuclear).
- Depending on where exactly in France the game takes place, we would probably meet a few organizations based on local nationalist movements, trying to cling to their traditions despite the devastated world.
Monsters and fauna
It’s not a Fallout game without its good share of horribly mutated fauna, full of monstrous bears, deathclaws and such. While the vastly different location of an eventual Fallout game in France, with its mostly nicer animals, would make it impossible to just recycle to usual Bestiary, we still have enough ground to imagine a seriously dangerous wasteland.
Like boars. Want to meet a radboar? Vipers would be a deadly surprise as well. Imagine how animals would be free to move around if humans don’t manage to contain them, and you can add bears and wolves to the list. Get creative, and a radhare turns into quite the threat. Radrats are already a thing, we can take them. Then there is the local cat and dog population…
Now, the main problem I have is that a few monsters in the Fallout world don’t exactly come from “natural” mutations, but from the Forced Evolution Virus. I can’t really add an equivalent to the deathclaw or the radscorpion without something similar.
This suggests I need to have at least some sort of science group in the setting that would work on mutations and such. With the Resource War, I could justify it as developing bioweapons like the American government did, but… I don’t know, I just don’t like it.
Idea: France has quite a lot of territory in sea considering its size. A solution for the Resource War could be to exploit those at the bottom of the sea, like maritime volcanoes and such. What if they had a special science division working on altering human genome to be able to survive on deep sea? Absurd project, but it IS fallout, and you have the potential for a new Supermutant specie, some kind of Force evolution and the potential for new and absurdly dangerous species, like an amphibian giant jellyfish.
Though it breaks a bit the idea of the government being just incompetent instead of evil… Then again, maybe this group could be evil on the sense of tricking the French president.
Well, that's it for now! Hope you liked it.
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