Narrative & Level Design
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Companion \\ Tabitha Ibarra Ballantyne

The convict

Cut me loose.
— Tabitha Ibarra Ballantyne
Concept by Christopher Means. Developed by Christopher Means and Jack Shipley.

Recipe: 1/4 Calamity Jane, 1/4 Griselda Blanco, 1/2 Rattlesnake, add to 1 pint Lucky Lady Margarita, chase with a shot of tequila

It’s no secret that Fallout: Lonestar is heavily inspired by my favorite western, The Magnificent Seven. It’s hard not to enjoy the Fallout implications of a western where the main character collects additional companions for a primary quest. But it was the narrative themes that solidified my decision to adopt its structure.

Tierra sin honor

Of the six gunfighters recruited by Chris Adams (Yul Brynner) in The Magnificent Seven, none of them would be called "good" men, especially by the standards of more traditional westerns. The primary arc for each gunslinger involves finding meaning in a life spent surviving through killing. A life with no enemies and no fear is a life with without friends, family, or purpose.

Because Fallout: Lonestar isn’t a direct analog of The Magnificent Seven, I couldn’t give that arc evenly to all of the companions. Their experiences are too varied, so what might work for Tabitha isn’t going to work for the super mutant Sherf. While all six companions have arcs that involve finding purpose, only two could handle that direct, Magnificent Seven arc. 

Ebru and Tabitha.

 Early rough concept art, Christopher Means

Early rough concept art, Christopher Means

Tú no eres como yo

In the violent frontier, those who strap iron to their hip survive by being quicker on the draw than their enemies, or they just shoot them in the back. Willingness to kill is a nebulous standard of honor that can be found throughout the Western genre. While the best case scenario for both are no remaining enemies and a pile of bodies, I still wanted to present this dichotomy:

“You’re not like me, I have honor. I only kill if I have no other choice.”

“You’re not like me, I know honor is a lie. I know they would've killed me.”

To express the latter, we’d need a character that could find disillusionment in the wasteland, but not fall further into the post-apocalyptic darkness. You can sympathise with the devil, but it’s harder to sympathise with a cannibal or a slaver. It has to be someone who works within the systems available, breaking them, but not living beneath them.

Like a criminal. Or better yet, a convict.

Design

It’s common for your more notorious criminals to do a little time at some point on their career path. They make contacts, learn new shanking techniques, and hopefully come out with more respect than than they went in with. So right there is where I wanted Tabitha to be when the player meets her. She’s done enough to be feared, but not so much that she clearly deserves retribution. At this point, her life could go either way.

Tabitha needed to be complicated, sympathetic, and a little scary. I know of a couple women who fit that description to varying degrees.

La Madrina

 Griselda Blanco, La Madrina

Griselda Blanco, La Madrina

Now, I wouldn’t blame you if you’ve never heard of Griselda Blanco. In all honesty, I hadn’t heard of her until a motorcycle assassin put two rounds in her head outside a carnicería in Medellín, Colombia in 2012.

Don’t feel too bad. Griselda was a ruthless cocaine queenpin. She allegedly ordered 200 homicides in Colombia, California, Florida, and New York, and those are just the ones we know about. After reading the news, I jumped on Wikipedia and spent the rest of the afternoon/evening reading about Griselda’s storied history and, because it was Wikipedia, the stories of many other notorious female cartel leaders. While these women were monsters, they were undeniably badass.

Note: The two are not mutually exclusive.

So when it came to Tabitha's design, I wanted to distill the confident, ruthless nature of Griselda and her peers into a younger woman who was clearly on her way to bigger things. That time before reaching the top where her ambition makes her formidable, but before becoming queen where hubris and decadence will assure her downfall.

Note: The motorcycle style of assassination that killed her was one Griselda invented.

Calamidad Jane

Martha "Calamity" Jane Canary was a frontierswoman in the late 1800s who was famous for her incredible exploits, even if most people can't agree which ones actually occurred. But what I love about Jane isn’t her having been a scout, or a prostitute, or a performer, or a friend of Wild Bill Hickok, or a skilled sharpshooter.

What I love about Calamity Jane is that she was, as they say, a real piece of work.

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Accounts differ about how she got her nickname, but, whatever the true story, you can assume it had something to do with her famous demeanor. Jane was trouble. The unpredictable kind you had to respect. But her recorded exploits speak to her character and they’re the ones I wanted to adopt into Tabitha. Jane was a famous alcoholic. In 1876, she rented a horse and buggy in Cheyenne for a one-mile joy ride to Fort Russell and back, but she was so drunk that she shot right by Fort Russell without noticing it, ended up about 90 miles away at Fort Laramie.

Jane clearly suffered from depression. She felt more than her share of pain, but she was capable of great generosity such as nursing smallpox victims during an epidemic in Deadwood. Then again, she also tried to kill Jack McCall with a meat cleaver after he shot Bill Hickok in the back. So, you know, a complicated woman, or as Captain Jack Crawford put it:

"She was simply a notorious character, dissolute and devilish, but possessed a generous streak which made her popular."

She also married twice and had two children. Being so fiercely independent, it's unlikely she fell into marriage by convenience. Given her ability to raise hell, but also care for sick and downtrodden, it’s fair to guess she might have also had quite the romantic streak.

Background

Note: The Cartels of post-war Mexico aren’t nearly as violent as their pre-war counterparts. Like so many factions in Fallout’s post-apocalypse, they adopted terminology from the old world without fully grasping its context. Cartels are just factions, and like elsewhere in the Fallout universe, factions run the spectrum.

Tabitha Ibarra Ballentyne was the daughter of a lieutenant in the Toros Cartel, Rico Ibarra Guzman and a smuggler, Martha Ballentyne Ruiz. Martha died during childbirth, so Tabitha never got to know her mother. Raised by her father, Tabitha grew up in a rowdy Toros settlement south of Juarez. Her closest friends were cartel soldiers, smugglers, and sex workers.

Appearance

Lonestar's Van Buren Prison is a nod to Black Isle’s cancelled Fallout 3, codenamed “Van Buren”. The player character would have begun the game as a prisoner in the AI-controlled Tibbets Prison during a prison break. So to take this homage further, we based Tabitha's prison uniform on concept art from Black Isle’s Van Buren.

 Prisoner's Jumpsuit, Fallout Van Buren, Black Isle Entertainment

Prisoner's Jumpsuit, Fallout Van Buren, Black Isle Entertainment

 Tabitha First Concept, Elizabeth Edwards

Tabitha First Concept, Elizabeth Edwards

 Tabitha Second Concept, Yana Dmitruk

Tabitha Second Concept, Yana Dmitruk

Note: My ultimate preference would be to have Tabitha somewhere between the first and second concept. Tough and fearsome, but attractive enough to scan as a heartbreaker.

Depression & Alcoholism

Tabitha suffers from clinical depression, though she's unaware of it. She sees herself as passionate and strong, often denying herself acceptance of the crushing loneliness she often feels. She doesn’t want to be alone, but “if no one can handle her” then so be it. This has led to a string of doomed relationships where she pulls men in only to shove them away when things get difficult.

drink of choice

Though it is often seen as a show of strength to enjoy stiffer drinks like whisky or vodka, it wouldn’t be wise to tease Tabitha over her love of Lucky Lady Margaritas.

Romantic

Tabitha was very close to her father, who took a special care to teach her as much as she was willing to learn. In a world where children were seen as a burden or property, Rico made sure his daughter would never be either. Tabitha’s mother was spoken of fondly and she grew to idealize the love between her mother and father. She would like nothing more that to find that love in her own life. While the majority of men in the cartel were trash, she's managed to find more than her share of drama and romance. A notorious heartbreaker, a living telenovela, known as La Rompecorazones.

Though no one ever said that when she was within earshot.

Smuggler

The arrival of the Confederacy in the Pass created a lucrative black market. Supplied by cartels on the other side of the Wall, piles of caps were brought back to the cartels by savvy smugglers. One very successful smuggler was Tabitha’s mother, and Rico told his daughter many stories of Matha's daring exploits. Idolizing her mother, Tabitha took up the trade. With many contacts and a notorious name, Tabitha was able to live independently after her father died.

Her work behind The Wall in La Puerta landed her contracts with Juan Miguel Santos, master of the Bridge. There her path to success was marred by the betrayal of a spurned lover who led her into the hands of the Confederacy and eventually confinement in Van Buren Prison.

Gallows Humor

Tabitha has a dark sense of humor, often focusing on the inevitability of betrayal, death, and sex.

Combat

Preferring to stay close, Tabitha excels at edged weapons. At a distance, she’s been known to use submachine guns for their simple, pray 'n spray functionality.

Preferred Companion - Honor Among Thieves

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Tabitha gets along especially well with Ebru Gunel. Ebru is over 200 years her senior and known for his legendary criminal exploits, If Tabitha is Calamity Jane, Ebru is her Bill Hickok. Tabitha sees Ebru as her mentor. Ebru sees Tabitha as lost and in need of guidance.

If either Ebru or Tabitha is downed by enemy attacks, the other will rush to their aid, reducing their recovery rate by 30%.

Companion Quest

Ninguna prisión puede detenerme

Van Buren already had connections to the main story, but I wanted to use Tabitha as a reason to go back to Van Buren and explore that area more thoroughly. It was also an opportunity for the Ranger to do something clearly against the law: Break Tabitha out of prison. Outcomes would vary between sneaking her out or breaking her out, guns blazing.

Note: Obviously, there would also be a more lawful way to do this. A more bureaucratic option to get her released that's not nearly as exciting, but is still funny and entertaining. Personally, I hate it when the “good” option in a quest is just the more tedious or dull answer against the action-filled murder spree that normally constitutes the “evil” option. However, since the player character is steeped in law enforcement themes, it seemed appropriate that we should touch on the factual nature of police work, which is, of course, paperwork, bureaucracy, and chain of custody. So this option is like Escape from Alcatraz by way of Brazil.

This would lead to escorting Tabitha back to her place of business at the Bridge, introducing the player to that particular quest hub if they hadn't found it already.

Red in the Ledger

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While revenge stories are common in westerns, we already have a revenge story in Rona Ransom, so Tabitha's return to the Bridge requires a shift in priority and motivation. Her betrayal, while hot on her mind, is less about her and the man that sold her out, but more about her image. The Bridge needs to respect her. Juan Miguel Santos needs to respect her. It's not enough for her to get revenge, she needs to put on a show. There needs to be a story about what happens when you cross Tabitha Ibarra Ballantyne.

They need to know it's bad for business.