Fallout 3 The Power of Atom Guide

Fallout 3 The Power of Atom Guide

If you have heard me ramble about games on a podcast, or perhaps were unfortunate enough to be sitting opposite me in a crowded bar, you’ll maybe have heard me mention my internal gaming scrapbook. They are a series of little moments in my gaming career that live rent-free in my head. I could bore you with my personal catalog of profound moments, but I’ll cut to the chase. Fallout 3 provided a scrapbook moment only seconds after the game began. I was blown away when I stepped out of Vault 101 and witnessed the vast nothingness before me. It looks primitive by today’s standards, but to that, I say, you had to be there. 

I regularly look back on this fragment of my collective gaming time fondly, but truthfully it’s a little reductive, because it’s all the moments that follow this intense hit of Vitamin D after a long time underground that truly form this fondness. It’s the ominous silence as you walk through the ruins of Springvale, it’s the intense firefight you might get tangled up in if you visit the Elementary School, and it’s the relief and curiosity that overcomes you when you stumble upon Megaton, before immediately being asked to disarm an Atom bomb of all things. 

Well, that bomb is the topic we are going to focus on in this Fallout 3 The Power of Atom guide because if you are one of those lucky folks who have never played Fallout 3, I don’t want you wandering into Megaton and blowing it to kingdom come. You know, unless you want to. So for all you curious bomb disposal experts in training, welcome

Quick Facts

power of atom fallout 3 icon
Image from Fallout Fandom
  • Key Locations: Megaton, Tenpenny Tower
  • Quest Givers: Lucas Simms, Mr. Burke
  • Prerequisites: Players will need Explosives 25+ to disarm the bomb
  • Rewards: 300XP & 100-500 caps/+200 Karma or 300XP, 500-1,000 caps & -1,000 karma

Bomb Disposal Recruitment Day

Firstly, let’s talk about how you start this quest, and your initial discussions with your quest givers, as this will determine your potential rewards. When players arrive in Megaton, they will immediately be accosted by Lucas Simms, who will happily give you the quest.

Or you can explore a little more, and in Moriarity’s Saloon, you’ll find the enigmatic Mr. Burke. Let’s take a look at these interactions and help you get the most out of this Fallout 3 questline:

Lucas Simms

fallout 3 lucas simms
Image from Fallout Fandom Wiki

As mentioned, Simms will immediately begin a conversation with you as soon as you set foot in Megaton. Simms sees it as his duty to get to know everyone that comes and goes from Megaton and tries to determine whether you intend to be a troublemaker or not. No matter how you approach this, he won’t deny you access to the town, and you’ll be able to discuss other topics with him. Topics like ‘what the hell is that atomic bomb doing in the middle of town?’

It’s a fair question that will then allow you to offer your services to the town by attempting to disarm this bomb. Simms will be more than happy to allow you to mess around with this weapon of mass destruction, and will even offer you a reward if you happen to neutralize the threat for good. He will offer a reward of 100 caps by default, but if you happen to pass the speech check, the player will be able to negotiate a fee of up to 500 caps. 

The other option is that players can refuse any compensation for their efforts, and in turn, the player will receive 200+ karma in lieu of financial gain. In my opinion, you should always try to negotiate the higher fee as money talks, but it’s up to you.  


burke fallout 3
Image from Fallout Wiki Fandom

If Simms is the good angel on your left shoulder, then Mr. Burke is absolutely the devil on your right. If you opt not to offer Simms your services and head to Moriarity’s Saloon, as you will probably be doing to search for your father anyway, you will find a shady-looking man smoking in the corner. This man is Mr. Burke, and when he notices that you aren’t from around these parts, he decides to pitch a proposition to you. 

He says that his boss, one Alistar Tenpenny, really wants to rid the Wasteland of the eyesore that is Megaton, and to do that, he urges you to rig the bomb to explode. If the player agrees, they will be promised 500 caps upon job completion. However, if the player passes a skill check, or makes use of the Black Widow perk, they can raise their potential payout to 1,000 caps. 

Becoming The Sherrif’s Favorite Deputy 

If you decide to do the morally good thing and disarm the bomb, it’s a pretty straightforward path to success. In fact, you can have this quest done and dusted in 30 seconds if you really hustle. The only thing the player has to do is head down to the bomb, interact with it, pass an explosives skill check, and then return to Lucas Simms to receive their reward. Logistically, it’s very simple, but one potential roadblock is the explosives skill check. Unless you have 25+ in explosives, you will need to find a creative workaround. So here are some ways that you can do that: 

Narcotics Anonymous 

If you are struggling to get yourself up to the required 25+ Explosives skill, then you can turn to petty theft as a means of solving your problems. In Fallout, drugs can play a vital role in boosting stats and overcoming insurmountable obstacles. They can also do as much harm as good, but that’s a topic for another day. With reference to this quest, Mentats are your ticket to success, provided your Explosives stat is already at 20, and to get Mentats, you can raid Leo Stahl’s secret stash. 

He keeps this stash in his desk at the Water Processing Plant, and it has a Very Hard lock. You might be thinking, how the heck can I open that as a low-level character? Well, if you speak to Doc Church, Lucas Simms, Mr. Burke, or inspect Moriarty’s terminal, you can start a quest that will have you solve Leo’s drug problem.

You can then approach this quest as a good samaritan that aims to help Leo clean up his act, and this will lead to Leo giving you the key to his stash, with the hope that you will get rid of it. After that, you can pop some Mentats and disarm the bomb. Easy, right? 

Become a Blastmaster  

raider armor fallout 3
Image from Fallout Wiki Fandom

The other option which will allow you to boost your Explosives skill by +5 is by equipping a Raider Blastmaster Helmet. This firefighter-inspired piece of Raider apparel will give you a much-appreciated boost to Explosives and will also offer a +5 boost to Big Guns into the bargain. The only question is, where can you get your hands on it? 

Thankfully there are a few options you can go with. Here they are listed below:

  • Head out to Springvale Elementary and kill/loot some Raiders
  • Trade with Wolfgang or any other trader who happens to be outside Megaton
  • You may be able to purchase this at Craterside Supply 

Click, Click, Boom

It’s very obvious what the right thing to do in this situation is, but that doesn’t mean we have to be a goodie-two-shoes. Sometimes it’s fun to be the spanner in the works, the bath salts in the punch bowl, the wolf amongst sheep. That’s what siding with Mr. Burke allows you to do. It gives you license to be a menace to society, and quite frankly, it requires less expertise making it the easier option for some players who are reluctant to up their explosives skill. However, there are a couple more steps required to complete the quest this way. So allow me to walk through each of them with you: 

Rigging the Bomb

The first part of this side of the quest is practically the same as the one above. The player will be given a Fusion Pulse Charge by Burke, and you will have to walk down to the bomb in the center of town and strap that puppy on there. You will also need a 25+ explosives skill to attach this device. If you need to boost this skill, then refer to the options listed in the section above. 

Travel to Tenpenny Tower

After you attach this device, you will then be tasked with high-tailing it over to Tenpenny Tower, which is all the way down in the southwest corner of the map. The good news is that you don’t need to weave in and out of subway stations like you do to reach areas within Central Washington, D.C. You can just set a quest marker and follow your nose, and the good news is that unless you wander into Evergreen Mills or Fort Independence, you won’t really encounter any real danger on your way there. 

Push The Button

When you get to Tenpenny Tower, you will need to speak to Gustavo through the intercom, and he will be aware of your arrangement with Burke, granting you access to the building. After you gain entry, you need to head to the top floor and head out to the balcony. There you will find Mr. Burke, Alistar Tenpenny, and a big detonator sitting on the table. Then all that’s left to do is push the button, condemning Megaton to their fate. 

Power of Atom bomb detonator fallout 3
Image from Fallout Wiki Fandom

Wildcard Options

While there are two staple paths to completion for this quest, there are a few other ways that you can see this through. Here are some wild card options if you want to really stretch the limits of Fallout 3’s role-playing capabilities. 

  • If you agree to Burke’s request, you can then report him to Lucas Simms, who will then march over to Moriaity’s Saloon and attempt to arrest him. This will result in a gunfight where either Mr. Burke will die, or both parties will be killed. 
  • You can also use the Black Widow perk to seduce Burke and have him leave Megaton alone, letting fate decide if the bomb explodes. However, if you do disarm the bomb, he will send the Talon Merc Company after you. 
  • If the player rigs the bomb and then completes the quest Tenpenny Tower, the quest can still be completed, with Mr. Burke and Roy Phillips forming an unlikely alliance. 
  • If Lucas Simms is killed, you can still turn in the quest by talking to the new acting sheriff, his son, Harden Simms.
  • If you kill Mr. Burke at any time when he’s in Moriarty’s Saloon, no one will become hostile, and the player will actually gain karma.

What’s In It For Me?

Ah, the spoils; you are wondering what goodies you get for completing this quest, and which side offers the best rewards. You’re a smart little Vault Dweller, aren’t you? Well, here is a quick rundown of what is on offer for each side of this quest:

Side With Simms

  • 300XP
  • 100 caps or 500 caps (depending on speech check)
  • 200+ karma if you choose not to take a cash reward
  • Keys to your own house in Megaton

Side With Burke

  • 300XP
  • 500-1,000 caps (depending on speech check)
  • -1,000 Karma
  • Access to the Penthouse Suite in Tenpenny Tower

The Aftermath

megaton fallout 3
Image from Fallout Wiki Fandom

Then before we wrap things up, you may be wondering what happened to Megaton if you did decide to blow it off the face of the earth. Well, it doesn’t just disappear. The player will be able to travel to the Megaton Ruins, where there will be a huge perimeter of metal scrap that is irradiated to all hell. 

You won’t find much there aside from the robot greeter who used to meet you at the door to Megaton. It seems like they are the only survivor as the severed head of the robot will continue to greet anyone that passes by. In fact, the robot even has a line of dialogue that ensures everyone that the bomb in town is perfectly safe. I don’t know how to break it to him. 

Also, if Moira from Craterside Supply was still alive when you blew the place to kingdom come, you will also find her walking around as a Ghoul. Despite the horrible situation, Moira remains her usual upbeat self, and you will be able to escort her to either Rivet City or Underworld. However, if left to her own devices, she will head to Underworld by default. 

Incredibly though, she will still allow you to complete the Wasteland Survival Guide quest, provided you had started it before deciding to nuke Megaton. 

FAQ Section

Question: Is Megaton Worth Saving?

Answer: To be honest, aside from the lucrative cash reward, there aren’t a lot of other benefits to siding with Burke. Megaton is a place for you to crash at your home, to trade with vendors, attend the doctor, and complete a handful of questlines. So in the long term, it’s always better to keep Megaton around unless you want to role-play as a complete ass. 

Question: Can Lucas Simms Die?

Answer: Yes, Lucas Simms can be killed when arresting Mr. Burke. This will lead to Harden Simms taking over for his deceased father. It’s sad and all, but it is a very quick and easy way to get your hands on a Chinese Assault Rifle, as this can be looted from Simms upon death.

Question: How Much Karma Do You Lose For Blowing Up Megaton?

Answer: The max amount. The player can only have a maximum negative karma of -1000 in Fallout 3, and if you choose to press that button, you will be handed -1000 karma on the spot. 

Well, That Was a Blast

I’ve always had a little gripe with Bethesda Fallout games in that most questlines boil down to ‘do the right thing’ or ‘do the evil thing.’ In most cases, it limits emergent gameplay for the player and isn’t the best choice from a design perspective. However, on some occasions, like in this quest, where the stakes are so high, it comes together to create a questline that really tests the moral fiber of everyone who visits Megaton.

You can get that warm fuzzy feeling of being a good citizen, or you can twist your curly mustache as you see your dastardly plan to fruition. In short, this questline is a lot of fun, and I hope I have given you all the tools to get the outcome you desire. As always, thanks for reading Wasteland Gamers. 

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