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In Fallout 3 there are some parts of some quests that involve NPCs walking with you (or leading you) through the wasteland. One example of this is traveling with your dad to Rivet City. It's one hell of a walk, and surely there are some monsters on the way.

I have never had the time to check it out, but can the NPCs be killed by some randomly encountered monster in this case? Or maybe it is scripted so that no monsters appear? Or maybe said NPCs can defend themselves?

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up vote 9 down vote accepted

The game has a way of protecting certain "critical" NPCs that must survive in order to continue the game - they are marked as "Essential."

Most essential NPCs that follow you or lead you will defend themselves if attacked. However, if they sustain damage enough to be killed, they will simply be knocked unconscious, and they will get up as if nothing happened later.

There are some side quests that it is possible to fail if a key NPC dies, but in almost every case where the death of an NPC would prevent you from finishing the game, the required NPCs are marked as essential.

The Fallout Wikia has pages for each character, and there is typically an information box that specifies whether or not the character is essential, and under what circumstances they get or lose this attribute.

In the specific case you mention, your father is marked as essential during the trip to Rivet City, so there is no danger of him dying during this trip. (Do note that there are spoilers on that page if you haven't finished the game...)

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On a comedic note, your father is also in stats a total badass for the level range in which you're suppose to finish the quest. So he'll be fine even without immortality. – Shykin Sep 11 '12 at 17:25
Liam Neeson provides voice for the character, would you expect any less? :) – PeterL Sep 11 '12 at 18:35
POSSIBLE SPOILER Yes, it's a real shame that his role is rather short and doesn't let him show his total badassness in action. Well, maybe except for the last scene. – Igor Zinov'yev Sep 11 '12 at 19:25

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