Playing Fallout 4 with a non-lethal knockout mod, Part 1

I'm attempting a non-lethal playthrough of Fallout 4 with the Knockout Framework mod, which lets me punch NPCs unconscious and carry them around in a sack on my back.  Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5  

In 2015, Kyle Hinckley sat down to play through Fallout 4 without killing anyone or anything. He remained seated for a very long time, eventually chronicling his non-lethal playthrough in a 37-part YouTube series, in which a lot of Hinckley's time is spent manipulating NPCs into doing his killing for him.

I don't have that kind of patience, but do I have something Hinckley didn't: the Knockout Framework mod for Fallout 4, which lets you render NPCs unconscious by punching them. When using it, your foes will lose consciousness instead of dying when their health runs out, and after a brief period of time, will wake up again. A companion mod by the same author makes a number of melee weapons non-lethal as well, and adds craftable non-lethal ammo for a few guns. Plus, the mod lets you pick up knocked-out enemies and carry them elsewhere in an enormous sack on your back. I don't know how practical that is, but it's kind of hilarious.

My plan: to play Fallout 4 non-lethally with the Knockout Framework mod, and avoid killing anything. But I want to go full-on non-lethal: not only do I not want to kill anything, I don't want anyone—companions, other NPCs, creatures—to kill anything either. If anything dies during a fight, even if I don't personally kill it, I'll reload a save and try again.

I should mention that the mod is configurable through MCM to allow even the player to be knocked unconscious, but after a test I've decided to leave that option disabled, because once knocked out, the player appears to remain in an unconscious state indefinitely. It's funny to watch, though.

With the mod installed, I begin a new game, and after awakening in the Vault I make my way to the surface. My first test is a single radroach. Boom. Knockout. The mod works perfectly: the roach isn't dead, and I pick it up and put it in my sack. Unfortunately, I can't remove it from the sack because I don't have my Pip-Boy yet, which means I can't open my inventory and pull out the roach. It's no big deal, but thinking about a giant twitching sleeping roach in my backpack is kinda grossing me out.

The rest of Vault 111 is, of course, just more roaches. I knock them all out but one, which I accidentally stomp to death by attacking while it's too close to me. Stomping is still lethal, so I reload my save and knock them all out again, being careful not to get close enough to trigger a stomp. Gun-bashing, too, becomes non-lethal with the mod. It looks brutal, but all those roaches are still alive, and as you can see, the mod allows XP gains even though I'm not killing anything.

I dump the unconscious roach near the Vault exit and ride the elevator to the surface, then make my way to Sanctuary Hills, where I discover two little hovering problems: Bloatflies, and Codsworth. 

The flies are an issue because, as far as I can tell, flying creatures can't be knocked out using the mod. Punching or bashing them kills them (I try it with the bloodbugs down by the river as well and get the same result). Codsworth, meanwhile, is a problem because he will kill the bloatflies (or anything hostile) in the vicinity, and while those deaths might not technically be on my hands, I want to have a truly non-lethal experience. Nothing will die on my watch, if I can help it.

As I stare at Codsworth I begin to realize he's kind of a big problem, actually. I was planning on setting up shop here in Sanctuary to do some gathering and crafting, but Codsworth will be hanging around, and I can't make him my companion (and thus send him somewhere else) until after I complete the Concord mission, which seems a bit daunting at the moment since it involves a deathclaw that I would have to defeat with my fists. Punching bugs in the face is one thing, deathclaws are something else. (Though I'm dying to know if I can put a giant deathclaw in my sack).

While I'm mulling over my options in Sanctuary, I realize I haven't yet tested the mod on a human yet. I know from my last visit here (when I attempted to play Fallout 4 without ever leaving Sanctuary, another terrible idea) that there's a raider living in a shack just across the river. I pay him a quick visit.

The mod works perfectly: both are knocked out with my baton, and I'm able to stick the raider in my sack. I don't take him anywhere, but the point is, I can if I want to. I'm also able to loot his body of weapons and armor (though not clothing). I take the dog's collar, too, just because, then leave them both slumbering in the woods. 

As far as my Sanctuary and Codsworth problem, I decide instead to set up shop at the Red Rocket truck stop just across the bridge. I meet Dogmeat, then immediately dismiss him to Sanctuary. It's sad to watch him go, but I can't have a deadly dog ripping people's throats out when I'm trying to be a knockout artist.

As anyone who's been to Red Rocket knows, mole rats have moved in. As they burst through the asphalt, I begin bashing them with a tire iron I found. One by one, I bonk them unconscious, then immediately realize I have a new problem. Knocked-out NPCs don't remain unconscious forever, and I can't be tinkering around in my shop with a bunch of mole rats waking up and attacking me every few minutes.

Okay, I can put the mole rats in my knockout sack and... lock them... in jail? Using the crafting bench, I hastily build a floor and walls and a door, then one-by-one, put each sleeping mole rat in my sack and dump them inside.

Perfect! Except not perfect. As soon as I'm done, I remember the thing about mole rats—the very thing I witnessed a minute ago and shouldn't have had to remember—is that they can tunnel through the ground. My jail isn't going to hold them once they wake up: they'll just burrow out. Dammit! Now what the hell can I do? The other settlement option nearby is the Abernathy farm, but it's unfortunately occupied by several Abernathys. Nice folks, but they'll create the same problem Codsworth does: they'll kill any interlopers.

I kind of thought this non-lethal knockout thing would involve more punching people in the face and less logistical work on how to deal with all the unconscious bodies. Oh, well. If Sanctuary has Codsworth and Red Rocket has mole rats, maybe I can work something out with the Abernathy family, like punching them unconscious and relocating them somewhere else. Of course, I can't take them to Red Rocket because they'll fight the mole rats, and if I bring them to Sanctuary, what if they act hostile when they wake up and Codsworth and Dogmeat try to kill them?

Ugh! I'm just gonna wing it. There's already been too much thinking and not enough punching.

Next week: I visit Abernathy farm and they all punch the shit out of me.

Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.