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I just ran into a small camp of Powder Gangers and killed them. When I was going to loot boxes, I got the "Karma lost" effect. Does this only apply to said faction or is there a "generic" karma that will make me a good or evil person of the wastes?

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Karma is not faction bound. It's generic and affects everybody. So, stealing (which the game considers an "evil" act) from any faction (and any NPC, for that matter) will always cause a decrease in Karma levels.

Killing certain NPCs or members of a certain faction will either increase or decrease Karma levels depending if the NPC or faction is considered "evil" or not. e.g. Killing members of "evil" factions like Fiends or the Powder Gangers will increase karma levels and killing non-"evil" NPCs will decrease Karma levels. More info at the The Vault wiki's "FNV Karma" article.

Reputation, however, is faction bound, and has a more significant effect on gameplay.

However, ... if someone catches you performing an action that causes negative Karma against their faction you will often lose reputation with that faction; for example, stealing something from The Silver Rush where a Van Graff can see you. They may also become openly hostile despite your reputation with them not being lowered enough for you to be considered hated where they will attack you.

Some ending narration in the game's epilogue will also depend upon the player's karma. (See Fallout: New Vegas endings for details.)

Source: The Vault wiki, "FNV Karma" article

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It just seems illogical that I lose karma for ransacking the evil guys' (PG) stuff. –  Sandokan Apr 11 '13 at 11:00
    
@Sandokan I agree that it's illogical. Also, you gain Karma for murdering members of "evil" factions, like the Powder Gangers. –  galacticninja Apr 11 '13 at 11:18
    
Reverse pickpocket also implies in bad karma? –  Patrick Jul 16 at 4:42
    

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