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The Institute
Mankind Redefined
"Haven't you been paying attention? You don't "find" the Institute. The Institute finds you."
-Conrad Kellogg

A mysterious cabal of scientists descended from the staff of the Commonwealth Institute of Technology (the Falloutverse's equivalent to M.I.T.). Little is known about them, apart from the fact that nobody's been able to locate their base of operations, and that they are the creators of the Synths. To the rest of the Commonwealth, they're seen as the local boogeyman since they rule the entire region (along with what's implied to be most of New England) from the shadows.

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    In General 
  • A Million Is a Statistic: The Institute's general outlook on the Commonwealth, viewing the residents less as actual people and more as abstract numbers on a spreadsheet.
  • Ambiguously Evil: Most of the Institute's darker elements depend upon the player's interpretation of Synth sentience. "Most" is the operative word here, though.
  • Ambiguous Situation: The ultimate fate of the Commonwealth Provisional Government, and how involved the Institute was in its downfall.
  • And Then What?: A secret frustration of Father is the Institute has been building up its technology for roughly two hundred years but hasn't really done anything with it, other than create Synths, sow chaos, and engage in rampant experimentation.
  • Arch-Enemy:
    • To the Brotherhood of Steel. The Brotherhood views Synths as yet another example of science gone amok, and must be destroyed to prevent humanity from nearly going extinct yet again - meaning the Institute must be completely destroyed and all Synth production stopped forever. The Institute sees the Brotherhood as an existential threat to their safety and the continuation of their slave labor, and so must be destroyed to stop them from attacking their "utopia".
    • Most of all, they're one to the Railroad, even if most Institute members seem to view the Railroad as less of a serious threat and more just a recurring annoyance. The Railroad wants to free both the Commonwealth and Synthkind from the Institute's oppression, and also see the Institute's creation of Synths in the first place as "playing God". The Institute, meanwhile, views them as delusional rabble-rousers, and has repeatedly launched multiple attacks on multiple Railroad Safehouses (most recently having conducted an entire blitzkrieg that left the Railroad devastated and licking their wounds at a completely new headquarters) to try and finally get rid of this recurring "thorn in their side" once and for all.
    • And to a (comparatively) lesser extent than the above two, they're also one to the Commonwealth Minutemen. While the Institute regards them as an Unknown Rival, the Minutemen and Institute's goals are diametrically opposed to one other. Piper also claims that the Minutemen have directly fought against the Institute's armies in the past and have actually won. Furthermore, it's later revealed that one of the Minutemen's other Arch-Enemy factions - the local breed of Super Mutants - are the direct result of the Institute's experimentation.
  • Armchair Military: The Institute's human staff and personnel (aside from Kellogg) are comprised entirely of civilians whose knowledge on warfare and combat in general are wholly academic in nature. However, it's not as much of a problem though when they can simply input said knowledge into Synths that are more than capable of using it, especially the SRB's Coursers.
  • Ascended Extra: Like the Railroad, they were originally mentioned in Fallout 3 but are now arguably the most important faction in the game.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • Their unique laser rifles. Despite their superior rate of fire and shinier appearance, the Pre-War military Laser Rifle simply hits harder as a semi-automatic battle rifle, and its automatic version straight-up has the same rate of fire, while doing more damage, which allows the Brotherhood's Knights in their heavy armor armed with superior lasers to simply wade through the waves of Synths the Institute throws at it. That being said, their own unique laser rifles are still more practical from the Institute's own perspective as they're more cost-effective to create in vast quantities.
    • Idle dialogue reveals they consider Power Armor to be this, which is why they don't use it.
  • Believing Their Own Lies: For all its shady activities, it's pretty clear that many in the Institute buy into the PR to maintain their For Science! pretensions and avoid examining what they're truly doing.
    • They also all firmly believe that they are technologically superior to all other factions. While they are impressively advanced, their research isn't really geared towards weapons and combat - Notably, the base damage on their futuristic laser weapons is on par with or even lower than most crude pipe-based firearms.
  • Beam Spam: Institute weapons have a higher rate of fire than regular laser weapons at the cost of lower per-shot damage.
  • Big Bad: Well, for certain values of bad, but they're the primary antagonists for most of the main story, and while the player can, with great difficulty, broker peace between every other major faction in the game, the Institute has to either destroy both the Railroad and the Brotherhood of Steel, or be destroyed by them.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: They have been using human-like Synths and various surveillance systems (like the Watcher Initiative) to monitor the various factions of the Commonwealth and strike against any that might become powerful enough to threaten them. The very mayor of Diamond City is a Synth replacement who is tasked with monitoring the city and reporting to the SRB.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: The Institute's residents have been led to believe that the surface world is a lost cause impossible to save (in part after the dismal failure that was the Commonwealth Provisional Government). Thusly, in their eyes it's perfectly acceptable to screw with the surface, as the people up there are essentially "dead men walking." Or, to put it more succinctly, they see helping the surface as tantamount to "trying to bail out the Titanic with a wastebucket."
  • Brain Uploading: The Institute was experimenting with this technology several decades ago, with the most obvious example being Nick Valentine. It's heavily implied that the Institute has developed a variant for Synth replacements, where they download the memories of the captured subject into the Synth copy to help make them more convincing. Complications will still arise, though, (as seen with Sammy in Goodneighbor and Roger Warwick) as the Synth may have the memories of the original to use as reference material, they still don't have their exact personality and discrepancies will inevitably pop up.
  • But Thou Must!: You can't actually influence the Institute's policy regarding destroying the Brotherhood of Steel, even when you're Director. Though to be fair, the Brotherhood is equally obstinate. What makes this count is you can voice all of your objections and get overruled. You also can't direct them away from doing the same to the Railroad, though this is before your directorship. Ultimately, being the Director means you don't have absolute control over the Institute and can be overruled.
  • Bystander Syndrome: The Institute as a whole has a pretty nasty case of this born from the safety and luxuries offered by their home underground. While the more sympathetic Institute characters will show pity or sympathy towards the people of the Commonwealth or Synthkind, helping them is ultimately viewed as "someone else's problem."
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The various department wear color coded uniforms and their areas use similar colored lines. Blue for Advanced Systems, Green for BioScience, Black for the SRB, Yellow for Facilities, and Red for Robotics.
  • The Conspiracy: Played with. They have all of the typical trappings and signs of this trope (they're an Ancient Conspiracy of usually faceless and always powerful individuals that manipulates events from behind the scenes), but their existence is publicly known to the Commonwealth, as the Institute had initially introduced themselves to the surface world first, and it was only later that the relationship went downhill.
  • Conspiracy Redemption: The Sole Survivor can try to drag the Institute towards this, particularly by undermining the SRB in their quests, eventually framing Justin Ayo and getting him exiled and replaced by Secord, who focuses the SRB on recovering salvage team Synths who are captured and want to be returned. Getting this done is pretty hard, though, since the quest will disappear the moment you meet the Railroad. And ultimately, the improvement is only relative.
  • Contrasting Sequel Antagonist: To Caesar's Legion. While they share a worrying amount of similarities, they also are meant to deliberately contrast with each other. The Institute is technophilic, basing their entire society around the creation of Artificial Humans. Meanwhile, the technophobic Legion deliberately keeps themselves limited on the tech spectrum because of Caesar's personal beliefs. The Legion is also a purely military organization run in a brutal dictatorship that rules over its subjects with harsh and direct punishment. The Institute is a purely civilian organization run in a loose confederacy (the various Institute divisions are mentioned as mostly working independently unless the Directorate personally steps in and wants multiple departments to work together on a single project) that rules over its subjects with cloak-and-dagger tactics that breed paranoia and makes sure people never know who was really holding the smoking gun. The Legion's military is powerful and expansionist, with only the NCR exceeding their might, while the Institute is actually rather weak in a straight fight, only kept safe by their secrecy and focus on espionage. The Legion also intentionally stylizes itself after both the Roman Empire and Sparta, while the Institute is loosely based after Renaissance Italy and the Soviet Union (although they intentionally try to avoid established iconography because they see themselves as the true inheritors of the future and not chained to the past).
  • Crapsaccharine World: On its surface, the Institute is a gorgeous utopia of Crystal Spires and Togas full of friendly scientists who want to make the Wasteland a better place. Look past the façade, however, and one can see that they're really a terrifyingly powerful Police State that subjects its huge pool of manual slave labor to Death of Personality for the slightest infraction and coldly eliminates its own citizens if they dare to actually question the Directorate's party line. Furthermore, the Institute's status as a utopia is only maintained through both treating Synths as slave labor and the constant oppression of the Commonwealth.
  • Create Your Own Hero: Their terrible treatment of the Commonwealth has only caused their enemies to grown in numbers. Desdemona can even admit to the Sole Survivor that most of the Railroad's members aren't as gung-ho for Synth rights as she'd like to claim; in reality, most of them have joined because the Institute harmed them and/or their loved ones in some way (i.e., Tinker Tom joining the Railroad after his family farm was destroyed by a poorly-tossed Institute grenade) and they want revenge by making the Institute hurt.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: They're excellent at espionage warfare - but aren't really good at any other variants of combat.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas: Their main facilities really evoke the shiny Raygun Gothic variation of this trope, in sharp contrast to the rest of the Commonwealth. The division heads even wear lab coats with vaguely toga-like patterns on them.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: The Institute invents some wondrous inventions that would make them the heroes of the Commonwealth if they ever bothered to apply themselves as such. For one, they have nearly limitless amounts of Gen 1 and 2 Synths that they could sic on just about anything from Raiders to Super Mutants to earn the goodwill of the people. Teleportation would allow them to move people and supplies around the Commonwealth effortlessly. The BioScience division is even shown working on means of growing healthy food efficiently in the wastes. If they really put in the effort to help the people, they would have a much better response compared to kidnapping people in the night and causing mass paranoia. Possibly justified though, if their account of what happened to the Commonwealth Provisional Government is correct. Furthermore, it's also shown that the Institute's already struggling for resources as-is, so it can be inferred that part of the reason that they didn't help the Commonwealth more is that they simply didn't have the necessary resources to do so.
  • Cynicism Catalyst: The abysmal failure that was the Commonwealth Provisional Government. The Institute had been attempting for years to get the towns of the Commonwealth to form a functioning government only for all the representatives to slaughter one another. And as if that all wasn't enough, the Institute was scapegoated for the fiasco. No wonder they want as little to do with the surface as possible.
  • Dark Is Evil: The Synth Retention Bureau - easily the most straightforwardly villainous division of the Institute - has black as its main coloring.
  • Destructive Teleportation: The Institute is able to keep its location a secret by using a molecular teleporter to send its agents in and out. It's a destructive form of teleportation due to how, as Virgil says, it "de-materializes you in one place, re-materializes you in another". Coursers have a special chip in their brains that allow them to access the teleporter on a frequency hidden in the Classical Radio signal. The main story quest "The Molecular Level" is about finding a way to access the teleporter frequency to infiltrate the Institute, and so long as you remain in the Institute's good graces, you'll be given free use of the teleporter.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The excuses used by some of the Institute's members for why they shouldn't help Wastelanders are reminiscent of how residents of developed Western countries waive off supplying foreign aid to developing nations, right down to a few Institute scientists outright stating "We shouldn't try to think about it, as it's much too depressing to discuss right now."
  • The Dreaded:
    • The Institute is only spoken of in hushed whispers in Diamond City, and is largely suspected of producing synthetic replicants of people to spy on others.
    • Those who know of the Institute's Coursers usually tell you that if you see one, run. This fear is completely rational, as Coursers are far stronger than other Synths (to the point where they're basically the Fallout universe's version of Terminators) and more than capable of wiping out an entire army of heavily armed mercenaries by themselves.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: So elaborate that the only way to access it, short of blowing open a hole in its roof or finding an incredibly well-hidden hatch in the C.I.T. sewers, is through teleportation technology. It's the reason why nobody else knows where they're based.
  • Everything Is an iPod in the Future: The Institute has a clean, sleek white and plastic appearance which deliberately invokes this motif. Of course, behind the curtain it's just as dirty and decayed as the rest of the Wasteland.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: In Fallout 3, the Institute was implied to be something similar to a ultra-exclusive scientific company/organization that didn't hide its existence to the Wasteland rather than the ultra-secret society Shrouded in Myth that appears in Fallout 4.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: Racism and sexism do not seem to exist in the Institute, with several women and people of color in significant positions of power and influence. Additionally, the Institute itself is (at least officially) classless, to the point where their internal economy operates on the barter system (the Institute proper doesn't use currency excluding their weapons and armor merchant Synth). However, "mundane" forms of human bigotry have been replaced with both a high-minded contempt for the surface Wastelanders and the enslavement of Synthkind.
  • Fake Ultimate Mook: The Coursers, albeit downplayed to a certain extent in that they usually only appear as part of Boss Battles. They're initially built up as immensely effective agents to the point that it's considered unbelievable that the Sole Survivor could even kill one. While they are still pretty damn tough, they only have about twice as much hit points as Elite Mooks (Level Scaling keeps this consistent), below-average armor, stronger limb health, and average weapons. They're only notable in their use of Stealth Boys, which aren't worth much (presumably, they're much better at infiltration and ambushes than direct combat). It's arguably justified in that Coursers being seen on the surface serve as a pretty good sign In-Universe of you having the Institute's undivided attention... and now you likely won't be that long for this earth. Lampshaded if you bring Paladin Danse with you to kill Z2-47.
    Danse: So that's the supposedly terrifying Institute Courser? Didn't put up much of a fight. I've killed ferals that were more tenacious.
  • Fantastic Racism: invoked The Institute considers Synths to be nothing more than machines. A Fridge Horror moment occurs when you hear things like recalls and causal memory resets as a result. It gets even worse in a way, as it's clear some Institute personnel don't believe they're machines but are powerless to stop it.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture:
    • An admittedly loose case, but they're one to the Illuminati, and by extension, Renaissance Italy (being a loose collection of autonomous states trying to further science and control over the surrounding region with cloak-and-dagger tactics).
    • Strangely enough, a better argument could be made for the Soviet Union. It has a one-party totalitarian government ran by an oligarchy constantly squabbling with one another (the Institute’s Board of Directors and the Soviet Central Committee), seeks to "overcome" the past, have their own Secret Police (the Soviets' KGB, and the Institute's SRB) constantly monitor both their foreign enemies and their own citizenry for signs of dissent/reprisal that will be swiftly dealt with, and make impressive advances in transportation technology (the Institute became only the second known organization on the entire planet to have developed teleportation technology, while the Soviets got the first man into space). Bonus points for how the Institute is an ostensibly "classless" society hoping to achieve a post-scarcity utopia but in reality has an informal caste system with manual laborers at the bottom and governing party members at the top, and is only able to maintain its standard of living through the occupation/oppression of its geographic neighbors (with the Institute's oppression of the Commonwealth for easy access to valuable salvage reflecting how the Warsaw Pact nations were created after World War II at least in part to aid in the Soviet Union's recovery from Operation Barbarossa). Even the Institute's clean and sterile-white Crystal Spires and Togas aesthetic seems to lift some loose parallels in design and implementation to Soviet Brutalism (i.e., both designs being adopted primarily for both utilitarian reasons and to intentionally evoke a "futuristic" mindset).
  • Foil: To the Commonwealth Minutemen. The Minutemen are a mostly low-tech military organization which works with local settlements to provide security as well as build-up the average quality of life. The Institute is a mostly high-tech civilian organization which manipulates events from behind the scenes to make Wastelanders do what they say for what they claim is their own good. Both groups are also fraught with infighting and rely on charismatic leaders to really get anything done in a unified fashion.
  • For Science!: A lot of their experiments show shades of this, having little to no clear purpose other than curiosity and further challenging the boundaries of certain disciplines (like making Synth gorillas).
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: The Synth Retention Bureau is mentioned as being incredibly unpopular among all of the Institute's other divisions due to being a Secret Police that spies on their own citizens as much as they do the Commonwealth. Pretty much the only reason they seem to be kept around is because the SRB serves as the Institute's de facto military arm.
  • Gambit Pileup: The Institute's divisions are shown to be pursuing their goals to each other's detriment and easily break down into petty squabbling, with the whole organization only loosely united by both the vague desire to "redefine mankind" and the Institute's Directorate.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration: Gen 1 and 2 Synths are obviously mechanical creations, while Gen 3 Synths look virtually identical to humans. In fact, one of the game's main themes is questioning whether or not Gen 3 Synths are worthy of sapience. Reflecting this, the Legendary weapons effect "Assassin's" (which deals 50% more damage against humans) only works on Gen 3 Synths, and the "Troubleshooter's" effect (which deals 50% more damage against robots) only works on Gen 1 and 2 Synths.
  • Hard on Soft Science: They have a complete lack of any manner of social scientific endeavors. This is a deconstruction, for while they have plenty of answers of "Can we?", the lack of social sciences leads them to time and again choose the wrong answer to "Should we?", leading them to becoming a boogeyman in the eyes of the Commonwealth instead of a force of good.
  • Hated by All:
    • invoked Pretty much no one likes the Institute due to their utterly incompetent understanding of both diplomacy and public policy. The Commonwealth at large despises them for their oppressive conspiracy and resultant rampant Paranoia Fuel (the Railroad also hates them for their enslavement of Synths), and the Brotherhood of Steel views them as an existential threat to humanity's existence that must be completely wiped out due to their creation of Synths. Even Raiders don't like the Institute and are terrified of them, as Porter Gage will attest to in the Nuka-World DLC. The only real support the Institute seems to derive from the surface is through paid mercenaries (i.e., Kellogg) and informants, and even then the latter are mostly kept in line due to being utterly terrified of the Institute cracking down on them someday.
    • And within the Institute itself, the Synth Retention Bureau is despised by all of the other divisions. They're viewed as a Necessary Evil only kept around to help maintain their conspiracy over the Commonwealth along with capturing runaway Synths, and are hated for constantly interfering with the other divisions' operations in the name of "internal security". The Robotics division is mentioned as being especially irked by the SRB repeatedly complaining to them for not having fixed whatever "software glitches" are responsible for the Synths "malfunctioning" and escaping for freedom.
  • Hidden Depths: While overall the Institute's residents seem blissfully ignorant and supportive of their technocratic and totalitarian government, there are apparently many citizens who are morally repulsed by the injustices they inflict upon the Commonwealth and actively (though clandestinely) resist it.
  • Hidden Elf Village: Deconstructed. The Institute's attempts to act like this are shown to be impossible due to their need for resources from the surface, and they've only helped cultivate a Commonwealth that's terrified of them & not at all open to their message of progress and scientific advancement.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: The Institute uses the Classical Music radio station to encode the data they use to teleport Synths in and out of their home base.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • If destroyed, it's their brand new nuclear reactor meant to guarantee their future that is used to wipe them out.
    • They let the Sole Survivor live as a backup replacement for Shaun while killing everybody else in the cryopods in Vault 111. In the non-Institute endings, that said Sole Survivor's survival ensured their downfall.
    • In two of the endings that involve the destruction of the Institute, at least one of the main people in the events that lead to that ending is Institute-affiliated:
      • In the Brotherhood ending, it's Doctor Li, who helps in rebuilding Liberty Prime. Danse arguably counts too, since he's a Synth.
      • In the Minutemen ending, the main person who helps you both enter and destroy the Institute (even supplying the final bomb), Sturges, is a Synth.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Their only real strategy when attacking is: Arrive, shoot, repeat until all hostiles are dead. And while their forces all demonstrate how to properly utilize cover, their advantage of teleportation it is only occasionally, if ever, used to outflank an enemy. On top of that, the Institute does not have any form of combined arms like the Minutemen's artillery or the Brotherhood's Vertibirds.
  • Hypocrite:
    • They are quick to decry the chaos and lack of civilization on the surface of the Commonwealth and why they must isolate themselves from it, but a lot of the hell on the surface is a result of their own meddling:
      • Their use of their Synth armies to kidnap people for experimentation.
      • Their use of Synth replacements to infiltrate, monitor and experiment on people as well as strike at any group that might advance to a technological level high enough to threaten them, sowing the seeds of distrust and self-destruction on the surface.
      • Their sabotaging the creation of the Commonwealth Provisional Government. Their actions furthered paranoia and division among the people of the Commonwealth. However, one of the loading screen hints reveals that it wasn't completely their fault. All the representatives at the talks started fighting due to mutual distrust, with the Institute rep being the only survivor and the Institute taking the blame for everything.
      • Their creation of Super Mutants in the Commonwealth by abducting people, exposing them to FEV, and then discarding them like trash.
      • The University Point Massacre, where they sent an army of Synths led by Kellogg to kill the entire population of one of the Commonwealth's biggest and most stable settlements, just because the people didn't hand over some scientific data a girl had discovered to them quickly enough.
    • For all their pretensions to being intellectually superior and meritocratic, its human staff and personnel have an almost religious reverence for Father, however much they try to downplay it.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Much like the East Coast Brotherhood of Steel, many of the Institute's members don't come across as particularly happy or satisfied about the monstrous things that their organization has done, but they still nonetheless accomplish them because they think they're necessary for the future of humanity.
  • Insufferable Genius: Even the nicer members have trouble not belittling your intelligence during standard conversation.
  • Invincible Boogeymen: invoked The Institute intentionally invokes the image of them being a terrifying, omnipresent, and invisible monster In-Universe to create Paranoia Fuel and make people less willing to take up arms against them. Kellogg can even lampshade this when talking to the Sole Survivor at Fort Hagen by directly comparing the Institute to the monsters hidden in a child's closet.
    Kellogg: You open the closet, it's just a closet. You can never find the monster that hides inside. Not until it jumps out at you.
  • Internal Homage: They can be seen as one towards the Master's Unity, strangely enough. Both are mysterious factions with Cult-like undertones dedicated to creating a "Superior Species" (along with Super Soldiers) and want to sincerely guide the world into what they feel will be a utopian society.
  • Irony:
    • Their motto is Mankind Redefined. They've achieved this with Synths, but they still refuse to acknowledge them as anything other than machines.
    • For all their talk of wanting to bring an enlightened order to the Commonwealth, their actions and policies have deliberately left its inhabitants divided, vulnerable and paranoid — and not at all open to the Institute's message. Of course, it wasn't completely the Institute's fault that things got this bad, but their actions following the initial breakdown of relations certainly didn't help matters.
    • One of their methods is to infiltrate Commonwealth settlements with synths that act as The Mole. They end up being the victim of The Mole Synth from the Institute if you side with the Railroad.
    • If you side with the Brotherhood of Steel to fight the Institute, the organization that is heavily reliant on Synths ends up being destroyed thanks to the effort of a Giant Mecha.
  • It's All About Me: The Institute only seems to care about itself and barely spares a thought for the surface dwellers. After the Broken Mask Incident in Diamond City, where a Synth accidentally massacred the Diamond City Guard because of a software glitch, the Institute didn't apologize or release anything resembling a press statement, with the Director at the time being angrier about a prototype Synth being sent out to the surface without her authorization than the fact that it killed people unnecessarily.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • Most of them protest when Father names you his successor. Considering how they don't really know you, you can betray them whenever you like, and Father didn't even discuss it with them before, their protesting is perfectly reasonable.
    • A holotape you find reveals that the infamous Broken Mask Incident in Diamond City wasn't caused intentionally, but by a malfunctioning Synth that was deployed without being properly tested. Combining both that and what the Mechanist did in Automatron, it's far more understandable why they want to keep their Synths on such a tight leash.
    • The Institute has (more or less) written off the entire surface as a lost cause and thinks the future of humanity is with themselves underground. This outlook is remarkably cruel and short-sighted...but not entirely unmerited, given not only how utterly hellish the Wasteland truly is, but also how most Post-War societies seen in the series are shown to be incredibly flawed and downright self-destructive (the New California Republic's military over-extension and incompetent/corrupt bureaucracy spring to mind, for instance). Furthermore, the dismal catastrophe that was the Commonwealth Provisional Government can make it pretty understandable why they want as little to do with the surface as possible.
  • Just a Machine: They don't view Synths as being much more human than Mr. Handies.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Some of the logs of their experiments can't help but sound outright evil.
      • Most infamous is their testing the Forced Evolutionary Virus on kidnapped Wastelanders for several decades with no tangible results from these tests. This eventually caused Dr. Virgil's breakdown over the utter inhumanity and futility of it, and made him flee the Institute.
      • They also replaced the patriarch of a family with a Synth to monitor them and the settlement around them, with the intention to wipe out the entire family should the father be exposed, or when the experiment is concluded to leave no trace or witness.
    • Unlike the Brotherhood of Steel or the Railroad, the Institute's Synth patrols are inherently hostile towards the player and neutral civilian Wastelanders. Joining the Institute will keep them from pestering the player and their companion, but not the player's Minuteman allies or civilian Wastelanders.
      • One location, the Sandy Coves Convalescent Home, houses several non-hostile Mr. Handies as well as a bunch of house cats. Once you're further in, a Synth patrol will show up and kill every "hostile presence" unless you stop them. And yes, that includes the cats. Many players reported that this was the last straw for them not to join the Institute.
    • The Institute will periodically send a Synth infiltrator disguised as a Settler to one of your settlements. The infiltrator will play along for a while, then shoot the place up when you least expect it. Even when friendly with the Institute, they will send groups of Gen 1 Synths to attack your settlements (as according to the SRB, runaway Synths are hiding out there).
    • The Institute's leaders at the time ordered all of Vault 111's inhabitants but Shaun and the Sole Survivor to be awakened then left to suffocate in their pods.
    • Leaving the Sole Survivor in Vault 111 even after they had human-looking Synths by 2229, only two years after taking Shaun. Even Father admits there was no reason for keeping them there for so long.
    • The massacre of University Point three years prior. It used to be a thriving settlement, until a girl found the secret Army lab under the Bank. Then the Institute demanded the lab's contents be given to them. When the town didn't immediately agree to do it on that day's town meeting note , rather than wait or negotiate the Institute returned three days later with armed Synths and killed everyone in University Point. Ironically, they screwed themselves over by killing/driving off the only person who knew where it was and ended up never finding it.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: The Institute hates Raiders and Gunners just as much as the rest of the Commonwealth does, and will crush them like kindling whenever they get in their way. Most notable is Z2-47 tearing through a building full of the latter during "Hunter/Hunted."
  • Kill and Replace: Or "kidnap and replace", rather, though the end result is the same. The Institute has been using Gen 3 Synths to do this to citizens across the Commonwealth - not just major political figures, but also ordinary Wastelanders. When in the Institute, you never actually find the kidnapped Wastelanders, however, making it likely a true trope.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Zig-zagged. They're certainly the most technologically advanced faction on the East Coast, and they've almost perfected Synth technology, but within the wider context of the Fallout world they're far from the brightest bunch out there. For reference, the Master managed to nearly perfect the FEV more than a century ago, Mr. House built up a deadly and intelligent robot army by himself (though he admittedly did this before the Great War), and the Think Tank blows pretty much every other group out of the water. Father even laments that all they've done is build up Synth technology and infiltrate the surface world. Even in-game, the Institute laser weapons that Synths wield are weaker than the Pre-War military issue laser weapon (due to them being made of low-cost plastics), and nothing compared to what the NCR has (companies in the NCR like the Gun Runners and the Van Graffs can produce far superior energy weapons on an industrial scale, which mercenaries and special forces soldiers from the Republic are shown to use).
    • Ultimately, the Institute can be seen as an advertisement for why the social and political sciences exist. Their utter lack of expertise in either field has led to over a hundred years of disastrously counterproductive relations with the surface. This is particularly notable when standing in stark comparison with the Brotherhood, which deliberately and successfully cultivates soft power through good works and publicity.
    • However, many of these examples are actually justified to a certain extent. Institute laser weapons are superior to Pre-War lasers in that they are easier to mass-manufacture with less resources than it takes for Pre-War lasers. Furthermore, most of the Institute's efforts are dedicated to building up their own facility than spreading out their influence directly.
  • Les Collaborateurs: The Institute has numerous paid informants on the surface aiding in their conspiracy - most notably, all of the leaders of Bunker Hill's merchant caravans.
  • Light Is Not Good: Their armor, apparel, weapons, base and Power Armor (once the Sole Survivor chooses to side with them and destroyed the Brotherhood) are very light-colored. And while they certainly view themselves as the "greater good", their methods are anything but.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Due to the cultural indoctrination started by the founders of the Institute generations ago, the vast majority of the Institute's own scientists are completely unaware about the horrific actions their own organization has committed.
  • Manipulative Bastard: It's an open secret that they've been running the Commonwealth through various proxies, subterfuge, manufactured crises and various covert activities.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • The Institute's Synth Super Soldiers tasked with hunting down and reclaiming runaway Synths are called Coursers. "Coursing" is the tradition of hunting with sighthounds, conveying to the player that Coursers are deadly and keen hunters who ruthlessly run down their prey. Additionally, "Courser" also means "runner," serving as another allusion to them being Expies of Blade Runners.
    • A more debatable case, but the fact that the Institute is called what it is can be seen as not only an obvious allusion to them being descended from the Commonwealth Institute of Technology, but that it's also a reference to the "peculiar institution" with which American politicians have used to try and excuse the history of slavery in the United States.
  • Mecha-Mooks: The Gen 1 and Gen 2 Synths come in large numbers, are fully robotic, and on average are roughly on par with Protectrons in terms of intelligence and armament.
  • Mirroring Factions:
    • As the game goes on, the parallels between them and the Enclave become almost glaringly obvious. Both are highly advanced technological factions directly descended from Pre-War organizations, display a high-minded contempt for Wastelanders, and see only themselves as the true inheritors of civilization. Both factions also contain many friendly rank-and-file members with Affably Evil leaders whose worst crimes are being part of the particular game's Big Bad faction. Most distressingly, if X6-88's comments are anything to go by, the Institute shares the Enclave's view that humanity can only survive once they take over and the people of the Wasteland die out. However, the Enclave is a fascist military dictatorship descended from the military and corrupt government officials of the Pre-War USA, while the Institute is a technocratic confederacy descended from the civilian and intellectual organization of Pre-War C.I.T.. Furthermore, the Enclave viewed Wastelanders with such fanatical hatred that they tried to implement a Final Solution against anyone not Vault-born multiple times, while even at their worst the Institute shows the surface more of an apathetic pity than anything else (with them actually being pretty willing to accept the smartest of Wastelanders into their ranks), and are more Obliviously Evil in viewing surface civilization as a lost cause that should be left alone to self-destruct (along with seeing Synths as simple tools). Furthermore, the Institute uses ruthless pragmatism and behind-the-scenes manipulation to accomplish their goals due to their lack of resources, all of which makes the Enclave's brute force approach look laughably trite. And finally, the Enclave also fervently idealizes Pre-War America and has a fanatical case of Patriotic Fervor for the long-dead nation, while the Institute views Pre-War America with undisguised contempt - rightfully blaming them for nearly causing the extinction of mankind - and are even trying to deliberately bury evidence of the Pre-War world to keep the surface dwellers weak & divided along with paving the way for their "enlightened utopia."
    • They're also one to Mr. House's New Vegas. Much like House, the Institute has established an advanced, highly secretive scientific near-utopia in the Wasteland, and want to make the world a better place by their advancement of technology. Both factions are also rather stringent on allowing outsiders access (House has a certain flat fee he charges for people to visit the Strip, and the Institute is obviously much harder to gain entrance to). Both House and the Institute also create unique and highly-advanced robots (Securitrons and Synths) that are unlike anything else seen in the series, and are almost never seen by their subjects, using human-ish intermediaries to interact with others (House "talks" to the Three Families through his Securitrons, and the Institute has a massive conspiracy of Gen 3 Synths that they use to control the Commonwealth and surrounding regions). Both also have rather un-nerving streaks of Fantastic Racism towards non-humansnote . But they differ in that House is still a capitalist and industrialist first before his desire to be the Mojave's autocrat, first used his scientific genius to get commercial success, and is motivated by a desire to preserve what little exists of the Pre-War United States - unchanging, forever (after all, House designed the Three Families to specifically embody certain elements of the Pre-War Las Vegas that he liked). Meanwhile, the Institute is focused on scientific advancement for the sake of science itself, and despises the Old World, what with them wanting to use their Gen 3 Synths to culturally manipulate the Commonwealth so as to wipe out all traces of Pre-War America & other emergent Wasteland cultures in order to replace them with their own. Additionally, the Institute and House have had the opposite effects on their respective regions' social development: House's New Vegas has helped slowly unify the Mojave, as new towns are formed and older ones grow as tourists flock to the Strip to make their fortunes, while the Institute's conspiracy over the Commonwealth has prevented the region from unifying & keeps it weak and not a threat to the Institute's goals on the surface. It's also worth noting that House himself is a graduate of CIT.
    • They can also be viewed as one in regards to the Big Mountain Research Facility. Both of them have technology that's light-years above anything a common Wastelander could ever have, both have a secret location that's incredibly hard to get to without teleportation, and both use humanoids for slave labor (Lobotomites for Big MT, Synths for the Institute). However, unlike the Think Tank, the heads of the Institute are actually, well, sane and are able to genuinely advance their technology instead of repeating the same experiments over and over again. In a sense, the Institute could be described as what Big MT would be like if they had an actual end goal, a much more grounded approach and no one like Dr. Mobius to keep the Think Tank contained.
    • To one of their Arch-Enemy factions, the Brotherhood of Steel; like the Western chapters of the Brotherhood, they're a xenophobic cabal of a Hidden Elf Village that has access to advanced Pre-War technology and regard the surrounding Wastelanders with at best Condescending Compassion and at worst as active threats to the survivability of humanity. The main difference is that the Institute values innovation and are also actively oppressing the Commonwealth to support their own "utopia" while the Brotherhood has primarily retreated into isolation after their failed war with the NCR.
    • Despite occupying near opposite ends of the technology spectrum and being diametrically opposed to one another, both Caesar's Legion and the Institute display a worrying amount of similarities: both their societies are heavily reliant on slave labor, their military and work forces being ultimately expendable. Both display a high-minded contempt toward outsiders and those they deem "primitive," as well as annihilating the past and cultural identities. And they have the capability to infiltrate and subvert enemy organizations with a disturbing amount of ease.
    • To the Pre-War United States. Both societies split themselves into self-governing components (research divisions and the thirteen commonwealths) which became resentful and worked to promote their own interests and undermine the others, all while under the thumb of a tyrannical system. Additionally, both societies have no problem performing heinous experiments on innocent people For Science!.
  • New Era Speech: The Institute gives one, done by the Sole Survivor, once they get underway. You can either follow the script or change some of the words to make the Institute sound more benevolent or more tyrannical.
  • Non-Action Guy: The entire faction is this, what with them being an entirely civilian organization made up of scientists, intellectuals and assorted staff whose combat experience is wholly academic. This is further highlighted in Kellogg's memories, which really show just how dependent the Institute are on Synths.
  • Not Me This Time: Father points out this fact if you bring up the Commonwealth Provisional Government being destroyed by the Institute. He says not only did they not do it, they were the ones behind it. While it would seem like he's lying, there's documented evidence in the Institute suggesting that he actually is telling the truth.
  • Not Quite the Right Thing: This is the Institute's Fatal Flaw - They have ultimately positive goals, but they always seem to try to achieve them through the worst ways possible. Father will even (reluctantly) admit the Institute suffers from this if you befriend him. They want to help humanity but their efforts have, for the most part, only sowed division and distrust throughout the Wasteland. In part from consequence of this, Father believes that the surface is doomed and that humanity's best chance are the denizens of the Institute.
    • For example, they destroyed the Commonwealth Provisional Government before it could create an NCR-like group, nipping a chance for the Commonwealth to unite peacefully in the bud and the Institute to help the region progress forward. They actually didn't do this, but everyone believes they did because they're so untrustworthy. It turns out that the Institute had a hand in starting the CPG, but infighting between the representatives quickly ended it, with the Institute taking the blame for its failure to launch.
    • They created Synths, in part, so disappearances and activities wouldn't be traced to the Institute, but instead cultivated a climate of paranoia when people realized their loved ones were being replaced. It also made it clear the Institute was the only possible suspect for the kidnappings, not some unusually subtle Raiders or isolated lunatics. A malfunctioning Synth actually clued everyone into this.
    • They also proceeded to send Kellogg to kidnap Shaun, who wound up shooting the Sole Survivor's spouse dead before killing all of the other Vault Dwellers. Nothing prevented them from using a less overt and violent method - taking samples from the unconscious Vault Dwellers, for instance, or just plain unfreezing them and asking politely to borrow some of their DNA.
    • Isolating themselves but using Synths means that everyone knows about them but no one knows enough to want to defend them. They really have the absolute worst of both worlds.
    • Even the University Point Massacre was the result of this. A girl living there had found data relating to increasing reactor efficiency, something the Institute wanted desperately. The emissary they chose to convince the settlement to give them the data? Conrad Kellogg. He gave them three days to comply, and when they didn't, he brought an army of Synths to wipe out the whole town - losing the data in the process.
    • The quest "Pinned" illustrates this clearly. Due to his paranoia about the surface, the Institute scientist Enrico Thompson brings an armed squad of Synths to escort him on a simple recruitment meeting, forcing his intended recruit to lock himself in a room and call for Minutemen backup.
  • No Transhumanism Allowed: Cybernetics research is banned, in part to keep the distinction between human and Synth. Father did this not only because the innovator of the cybernetics research posed a threat to his position as Director, but that he felt humanity should be preserved as an independent entity and not be twisted into inhuman monsters.
  • Obliviously Evil: The Institute may be feared and hated by the Commonwealth, but most of the scientists you see running around aren't rubbing their hands together while cackling evily and gloating over Tesla Coils. In fact, many of them are actually quite friendly and civil to the Sole Survivor, and some (like Madison Li, Clayton Holdren, and Rosalind Orman) seem to be genuinely good people who just had the misfortune to either join or be born into the game's Big Bad faction. They just don't really think of the consequences of sending a squad of Synths on mission to strip a settlement bare for resources or murdering a surface dweller in cold blood to replace him with a Synth duplicate, as from the Institute's perspective, it's all just raw data to be used and accounted for in experiments. This is even one of the interpretations of "Mankind Redefined," i.e., "we're the only ones who count as people," so they don't think they're hurting anyone (or at least, anyone who matters).
  • Pet the Dog: After they got the needed unmutated cells from Shaun, they accepted him as their own child without prejudice or contempt.
    • Even some of their Kick the Dog moments have silver linings, like when they replaced the patriarch of a family as mentioned above. The real father was a belligerent and philandering drunk who abused his family. The Synth they replaced him with decided to be a better husband and father to the family, even though doing so was counter-productive to maintaining his façade.
      • Additionally, while X6-88 and the Sole Survivor are sent to take Gabriel/B5-92 back to the Institute in "Synth Retention" primarily because he's an escapee, it was also done because the Institute was concerned about the many innocent lives being taken by Gabriel's Raiders at Libertalia.
    • Some of the random ambient dialogue between lower ranked Institute members shows that not all of them subscribe to the organization's policies of isolationism or even unwillingness to see the Synths as people. But such dissent is kept mostly quiet due to the brutal repression the SRB and the Directorate exert, as well as the information control going on inside the Institute itself. In other words, there are good people within this place...they're just unwilling/unable to act because of their lack of influence and rational fear of consequences.
    • For all their xenophobic paranoia towards Wastelanders, they treat the ones they do recruit, like Madison Li and T.S. Wallace, as complete equals.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Of both the fantastical and mundane kinds; For the former, the Institute refuses to recognize the sapience of Gen 3 Synths and treats them as a glorified Slave Race. For the latter, the Institute has a highly classist view of the Commonwealth's surface dwellers, viewing them with at best Condescending Compassion and at worst as active threats to the achievement of their "utopia."
  • Powered Armor: It's implied that the Institute have the tech to make power armor, and there's even an Institute coat of paint for the Sole Survivor's power armor, but they don't use it themselves since they regard it as an impractical waste of resources.
  • The Power of Creation: Their main advantage isn't just that they've created Artificial Humans, but that they've created their own manufacturing base. Unlike even the Brotherhood of Steel, who largely need to still scavenge for weapons left over from the Pre-War days, the Institute can just make everything themselves.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: They will recruit Wastelanders into their ranks if they're seen as intelligent enough for their standards.
  • Rightful King Returns: The Institute believes they are the true essence of humanity and have even programmed Coursers to treat the rest of humanity as a barbaric sub-species. They also believe that the world can only be saved once the surface dwellers are extinct.
  • Robot Names: Almost all Institute Synths are given a four-character designation, consisting of a letter followed by three numbers. Each of these designations also fits their duties. The only known details are that all Coursers seem to have their designation begin with either an "X" or a "Z."
  • Rule of Symbolism:
  • Secret Police: The Synth Retention Bureau (SRB) acts as such. The Sole Survivor can even call the division director out on them being a secret police organization, which completely flies over the director's head.
  • Simple, yet Awesome: As the game shows, the Institute's development of Synths, while not as visually impressive as, say, the Think Tank's inventions, is amazingly versatile and can be used in damn near anything. By creating Synths, the Institute has an expendable & versatile workforce that allows every human to focus on creative pursuits and scientific endeavors. Synths are better than Assaultrons and Sentry Bots for the simple reason that they are easily capable of using human tools (perfectly mimicking human locomotion) and in the case of Gen 3s, self-healing with no requirement for spare parts. Thusly, they can serve in virtually any dangerous job that the Institute would need that would previously have had to be accomplished by humans. Furthermore, when going into battle, Synths are equipped with weapons that outclass the weapons of the average Wastelander by a wide margin, have no fear or morale to break, and will continue fighting as long as they keep running.
  • Start of Darkness: The complete and utter disaster that was the Commonwealth Provisional Government pushed them to their current Well-Intentioned Extremist status.
  • Stone Wall: To make up for their rather weak laser weaponry, they have the best armor in the vanilla game, and the lasers' semi-automatic fire rate is faster than standard variants. And this is simply straight-on averted with the Coursers, who are full on Lightning Bruisers.
  • Squishy Wizard: The entire faction can be argued as this. They're capable of frankly ridiculous feats of science that laughs in the face of the rest of the series' tech, from creating teleportation to granting functional immortality... but in a straight fight, it only takes one squad of Brotherhood of Steel Paladins inserted into their base to exterminate the whole Institute's military force (ignoring the Space Compression and other assorted scale facets found in Bethesda games).
  • Sunk Cost Fallacy: At least part of the Institute's logic for continuing their atrocities can be summed up as this. Many scientists are unwilling to recognize Gen 3 Synths as humanity's equals or stop oppressing the Commonwealth since not only would the Institute be unable to maintain its high standard of living, but they would be forced to contend with the fact that they've been committing horrific atrocities for the last century-and-change. Most would rather bury their heads in the sand and continue supporting an unsustainable status quo than recognize what they're doing is wrong.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Due to their facility having been created entirely after the Great War, they frequently struggle with resource issues. The primary reason why they're not able to be more active in the Commonwealth than they already are is their over-reliance on an obsolete nuclear reactor and a lack of suitable replacements for the time being. Despite having been around for far longer than the Brotherhood has in the Commonwealth, the latter already outpaces them by far in their activity on the surface.
    • The Sole Survivor can be granted the position of Director by going far enough into their questline... and still have only minimal control over its operations. After all, Father gave the Sole Survivor the position without consulting the other department heads, and you're some unknown actor who just walked out of the Wasteland, not a fellow scientist who worked their way through the ranks normally. Realistically speaking, it'll take years before the Sole Survivor is able to command anything resembling significant power and influence within the organization.
  • Sweet Tooth: Hilariously, all Gen 3 Synths have a taste for Fancy Lad Snack Cakes, and even the Institute scientists find this puzzling.
  • Terminator Impersonator: Synth machines created by the Institute fall into several types of this:
    • Generation 1 and 2 Synths are mechanical robots that look eerily humanoid and are often sent as canon-fodder for executing simple tasks for the Institute. Their abilities and intelligence relatively limited, however, which means they must rely on sheer numbers to defeat seasoned Wastelanders.
    • Generation 3 Synths are convincing imposters created to replace some unfortunate human, and are usually indistinguishable unless they fail some sort of Impostor Exposing Test or otherwise give themselves away. While most are not that much more capable than humans, there are cases where they have "malfunctioned" and killed several innocent people before being taken down.
    • Coursers are a variant of Gen 3 Synths created specifically for combat. They are far stronger, faster, tougher and more intelligent than ordinary people, which make them terrifying opponents to deal with. When ordered to locate or eliminate a target, they will pursue that target relentlessly and with little-to-no sympathy. To top it off, they're also outfitted with Cool Shades and wear imposing black leather outfits.
  • Theme Naming: It's not universal, but a few Institute members share names with prominent scientists; we meet a Newton, a Higgs, and a Loken (presumably as in Brent Loken).
  • Technical Pacifist: As a consequence of being a entire community of Non-Action Guys, they detest violence, only resorting to it when considered necessary (and even then, they have to rely on mercenaries and synths). Unfortunately, their opinion of the Wasteland is so low they seem to think that it's always necessary.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: The Institute inverts this as their shadowy, sinister reputation does not prepare the Sole Survivor to find a Star Trek-looking utopia on the other side of the teleporter. The trope zig-zags when you find the Synths' treatment at the hands of the Institute's people is brutally callous and the mental cartwheels necessary to believe they aren't sentient become much more difficult when they're thanking you for siring Father so they have the privilege of life. Then you find the FEV lab...
  • Villain Ball: They really handled the Vault 111 situation in the absolute worst manner possible. For example, nothing prevented them from simply inviting the Vault Dwellers of 111 to the Institute, where as Pre-War humans they would have fit in fine. Or, hell, just taken blood samples while they were out.
    • There's really no reason to not euthanize the Super Mutants rather than releasing them. Even for science's sake, that's pretty out there. It does make a bit more sense when one considers the Institute using them to run interference on the surface so their operations won't get disrupted, though.
    • Abducting random settlers for their experiments and replacing them with Synths really doesn't help their public perception. They could instead use their army of Gen 1 Synths to attack Raider/Gunner settlements and grabbing the subjects they need then, which would also net them good PR for "defending" the Commonwealth.
  • Villainous Underdog: Their synth army can bully the communities of the Commonwealth pretty easily, since their strongest military forces are small militias of men with handmade .38 and .308 pipe pistols and pipe rifles, but against anything resembling an actual military force the Institute's military is lackluster at best and paltry at worst. Despite legitimately having the tech and resources necessary that go to levels only the Enclave can dream of, the Institute flatly refrains from improving the arsenal and protection of their armed forces. They have laser weapons that are all-around inferior to the Pre-War military service laser weapons that the Brotherhood of Steel use, no more advanced weapons in service, and no Power Armor whatsoever. While their Coursers are One-Man Army Terminators rightly feared throughout the Commonwealth, their numbers are very low and can't even begin to be fielded in sufficient quantities to match the Brotherhood's many Power Armor equipped soldiers. Plus, Coursers are primarily intended as assassins and covert agents, and are poorly suited to pitched open battles; This is most notably on display should they choose to attack the Castle, where the Minutemen are able to drop hundreds of early-gen Synths and at least a dozen Coursers, possibly without even resorting to their artillery. Were it not for their subterfuge, the weakness of the East Coast settlements, and their ability to throw wave after wave of disposable minions at threats, they'd have nothing going for them. Admittedly, this is justified by the fact that, unlike the Brotherhood of Steel or most other militaristic factions in the series, the Institute's more interested in For Science! and building up their own facility than in building weapons or eliminating threats to humanity. Not to mention, prior to the Sole Survivor waking up and the Brotherhood arriving, the Institute had everyone in the Commonwealth running scared, and even had the Railroad, the only group taking any action to oppose them, in near-total disarray through their massive conspiracy. Still, the fact that their main goal is simply building a functional nuclear reactor so they don't have to rely on the surface anymore can't help but paint them in a considerably less villainous light than most other Fallout villains in the past, in part since their villainy is more born of apathy and ignorance than outright hate (as seen in the Enclave and Legion).
  • We ARE Struggling Together: While this isn't made as clear as the Minutemen's situation is, the Institute definitely suffers from this. Ultimately, the Institute's a loose confederation of primarily self-governing divisions that're expected to do their own work without unnecessarily interfering with each other, and only really work together when the Director brings them to focus on a certain project. This has resulted in the Institute being an absolute mess of paranoia and resentment between the different divisions as they try to undermine each other for access to more resources. The most obvious example of this is in how the Synth Retention Bureau is mentioned as being disliked by all of the other divisions, with Justin Ayo planning on using some Coursers to "send a message" to Advanced Systems.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Institute is dedicated to "redefining mankind," no matter the cost. And as part of this goal, they generally believe the surface world is a lost cause impossible to save and the only way to safeguard humanity's future is to create a utopia underground while the surface world goes extinct. There is hope of them eventually supplying their advanced technology to the surface and becoming more open if the Sole Survivor takes control, which can potentially save the world - Though it'll be whether the Wastelanders above actually want them to or not.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Piper, Preston, and Nick all react to you siding with the Institute with extreme skepticism. All of them think it was a terrible idea. The best course of action you can take with them is point out the Brotherhood of Steel was a worse choice. This can result in Mood Whiplash given they may otherwise idolize you or even be in love with you.
    • Potentially Subverted with Piper, though, depending on whether or not her affection with you is high enough. Given time to think about it, she will publish an article in Publick Occurences with a rather hopeful tone, stating that since you are now the Director of the Institute, she hopes that you can help them to perform a Heel–Face Turn, and will even admit that it's quite possible that, as bad as they are, they are the Lesser of Two Evils compared to the Brotherhood of Steel and the Railroad.
  • What You Are in the Dark: There are some twisted goings-on in the Institute that most within its own ranks prefer not to think about.
  • When All You Have is a Hammer…: A lot of their problem solving boils down to "Throw Synths at the problem until it stops!" For example: In order to deal with the Brotherhood of Steel they upload a virus into a Gen 1 Synth and have you escort it to Liberty Prime. That Synth infects Liberty Prime with the virus causing it to recognize the Prydwen as an Communist vessel. The airship crashes right on top of the airport blowing the entire place to kingdom come after Liberty Prime opens fire on it. Spying, combat, scavenging, mopping the floors, and basically anything involving the surface is done using Synths.
  • Wicked Cultured: Somewhat implied with the Institute. The Sole Survivor will eventually find out they're the ones broadcasting the Classical Music radio station, and they're one of the darker factions of the game.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: The Institute has a nasty habit of disposing of Synths that are deemed useless, whether it be through execution by Coursers or by literally tossing them into the trash. This also extends to even useful assets like Conrad Kellogg.
  • Zerg Rush: When they fight openly, their usual methodology is to send a wave of Synths with cheaply-manufactured laser weapons at their enemy. This works well against most Wastelanders, who lack much in the way of armor or powerful weapons, but the Synths struggle against serious opposition.


    Father (SPOILERS) 

See: Sole Survivor and Family for more details.

The Directorate (Division Heads)

    Madison Li

Voiced by: Jennifer Massey

A returning character from Fallout 3. She's scientist hailing from Rivet City in the Capital Wasteland, who has joined the Institute outright as the head of the Advanced Systems division so as to continue her work.

  • And I Must Scream: Not very evident in-game but the G.E.C.K. reveals that if Li defects to the BoS and then the Prydwen is destroyed by your choice of faction at the end of the game, then Li survives, but is trapped in a room in Boston Airport that's buried under debris with her only escape being death by starvation or dehydration.
  • Bystander Syndrome: She tries focusing on the Institute's pretensions and compartmentalizing its dubious actions as being not under her jurisdiction. The Survivor can, however, convince her to stop acting like this and help the Brotherhood instead.
  • Despair Event Horizon: The reason she left for the Institute, after watching first James' and later the Lone Wanderer's Heroic Sacrifices. She probably didn't know that the latter survived.
  • Face–Heel Turn: In Fallout 3, Dr. Li was opposed to even Elder Lyons' more benevolent methods. By Fallout 4, she's one of the leaders of the Institute despite the fact that they're doing a lot of things which are far worse than anything Lyons and his version of the BoS ever did. She (poorly) tries to justify this by focusing on the Institute's ultimate goals rather than their methods.
  • Everyone Has Standards: She immediately defects and helps to join the Brotherhood if you show her Virgil's tape recordings of the horrific FEV Lab experiments that led to his desertion from the Institute.
  • For Science!: Her justification for joining the Institute.
  • Heel Realization: It's possible for the Survivor to make her finally open her eyes to the Institute's dark nature through showing records of the FEV Lab experiments, shattering her view of them.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: She returns to the Brotherhood to help them reactivate Liberty Prime believing that Prime will be used as a "deterrent" to convince the Institute to surrender. Any player who has interacted with either faction on even a superficial level would be able to tell her there's no way it would play out like that.
  • Hypocrite:
    • It's understandable for her to be wary of the Brotherhood of Steel, since they Took a Level in Jerkass once the Lyons were no longer in charge. However, the Institute is far worse than the Brotherhood, but Li turns a blind eye to their crimes, convincing herself they're acting for the greater good.
    • She considers the Brotherhood of Steel to have betrayed her in the Capital Wasteland. However, Li left the Capital Wasteland while they were still under the leadership of the Lyons and were a benevolent faction who had just activated the purifier and were repelling the Enclave. Then she went and allied herself with what would become the Brotherhood's next major enemy after the Enclave.
  • It's All About Me: By the time of Fallout 4, it's pretty heavily implied she doesn't really care about taking a side in the Brotherhood-Institute war, as long as she can be left in peace and given the resources to pursue her own personal projects.
  • My Greatest Failure: She seems to treat Project Purity as this, in addition to not getting over James' death in the events of Fallout 3.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Not that her Fallout 3 incarnation was ever that nice to begin with, but she's even more bitter now about what happened with Project Purity and especially the Brotherhood of Steel.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: She disappears from the game if you complete the main quest by siding with the Institute or the Railroad (or potentially even the Minutemen) after initially recruiting her back into the Brotherhood. Digging around in the G.E.C.K. reveals she does actually survive the destruction of the Prydwen, but was inside a room in Boston Airport that's now completely sealed by all the debris.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: She snaps at the Sole Survivor if she's asked for help in reactivating Liberty Prime for the Brotherhood.

    Clayton Holdren

Voiced by: Caleb Moody

Head of the BioSciences division in the Institute.

  • Bystander Syndrome: He, along with a majority of the Institute's citizens, considers the Wasteland above to be a lost cause and its inhabitants beyond saving. This helps explain why he's perfectly fine with wiping out the Warwicks once the Institute's experiment with their crops is done, which includes a teenage girl and a young boy.
  • For Science!: This is the Institute's MO, but he's willing to spend time making synthetic gorillas.
  • Green Thumb: One of the things he has BioScience doing is taking strides to make crops grow in the irradiated soil. He goes so far as to use cells from Super Mutants to try and splice them into his crops.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Probably one of the nicest people the Institute has to offer. One of the few who doesn't talk down on other groups in the Commonwealth and will support Father's decision to name the Sole Survivor head of the Institute without hesitation.
    • Rummaging through the trashbin in his quarter's bathroom reveals a Join the Railroad holotape, suggesting Holdren is an undercover ally of the Railroad and/or Internal Reformist like Liam Binet, or at the very least has considered helping them.
  • Nice Guy: Probably one of the friendliest people in the Institute.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: He has the appropriate reaction to seeing the countless arguments and outrage ensuing from Father naming you as his successor.

    Allie Filmore

Voiced by: Ellen Dubin

Head of the Facilities division of the Institute.

  • Action Mom: Has a son, Quentin, and can hold her own on surface missions.
  • Badass Bookworm: She's not all that fond of going to the surface, but she'll do it, and she's fairly formidable doing so.
  • The Engineer: She describes her role as head of Facilities as being the Institute's chief engineer.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: She doesn't trust the Sole Survivor initially. If you work with her, she grows out of it, and supports you.
  • Guest-Star Party Member: She offers to accompany you during the mission to get the Beryllium agitator to make sure the device is in safe hands. However, you can tell her to not come, though she'll be somewhat insulted.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Despite her initial distrust, she'll come around to the Sole Survivor if they work together at Mass Fusion.
  • Happily Married: To her husband Nathan.
  • Number Two: Father's deathbed conversation with the player reveals she was this to him, and potentially for you as the next director.

    Justin Ayo

Voiced by: Matthew Yang King

Acting Director of the Synth Retention Bureau in the Institute.

  • Ambition Is Evil: He's one of the darker members of the Institute, and many note he's using his position to further his goals.
  • Call-Back: He's only the Acting Director of the SRB since Dr. Zimmer is apparently still taking care of a Synth "re-acquisition" back in the Capital Wasteland.
  • Dark Is Evil: His lab coat is black, and he's definitely one of the darker/more villainous members of the Institute.
  • Establishing Character Moment: His introductory scene has him getting into an argument with his subordinate Alana Secord over Robotics supposedly "dragging their feet" regarding the targeting package upgrades he'd been asking for, and him openly considering taking some Coursers over with him to "knock some heads together". When Secord tries to tell him that will only make things worse since they have enough friction with the other departments already, his only response is to scoff and ask if she's "going soft" on him. This scene pretty much perfectly shows exactly what kind of person Justin Ayo really is.
  • Fantastic Racism: He's probably the most vocal anti-Synth racist in the game that isn't a member of the Brotherhood, being very fervent (thanks to his job) in emphasizing the Institute's partyline that a Synth is Just a Machine.
    Sole Survivor: If the Synths want to be free, you should let them.
    Justin Ayo: (dismissively) Synths do not "want". They might look like human beings, but they are just machines.
  • Frame-Up: You can frame Justin as a member of the Railroad instead of the guilty culprit.
  • Hate Sink: He's easily one of the most obnoxious and arrogant characters in the entire game, constantly belittling the Sole Survivor's intelligence through backhanded compliments, acting as a fervent anti-Synth racist, and personally leading the Institute's Secret Police to continue both the Commonwealth and Synthkind's oppression along with constantly violating the privacy and freedom of his fellow Institute residents. If you want a singular example of all the Institute's flaws and sins, look no further than Justin Ayo.
  • Jerkass: Even putting aside him leading the Institute's Secret Police, Ayo's just a massive prick to everyone around him.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: For all of his obnoxious flaws, his fretting about security risks can be vindicated by a non-Institute play-through of the main quest.
  • Number Two: He was originally second in command at the Synth Retention Bureau, as Director Zimmer is technically in charge. But Zimmer is (supposedly) down in the Capital Wasteland, so Justin's in charge until he gets back.
  • Properly Paranoid: His paranoia and reluctance to believe the Sole Survivor can be justified if the Sole Survivor turns against the Institute.
  • This Is Reality: Underlined in his staff memo telling the rest of the SRB that they can't risk revealing any secrets to the Sole Survivor (who is still regarded as an outsider).
    Justin Ayo's Memo: Refrain from discussing any sensitive information, especially the ongoing investigation involving the Gen 3 synths. In an ideal world, the Railroad will have had no influence on our new guest. We do not live in an ideal world.

    Alan Binet 

Voiced by: Robert Picardo

The head of the Robotics Division and father of Liam Binet.

  • Internal Reformist: Implied, with him attempting to debate his colleagues in rethinking Synths as more than just basically Protectrons made of flesh and recognize that, thanks to factors like recognizable rapid-eye movement during sleep mode (indicating dreaming), Synths are closer to humans. Unfortunately, thanks to both the Institute's Hard on Soft Science stance and his own cowardice as a Rule-Abiding Rebel, his pleading falls on deaf ears.
  • Out of Focus: He is the only Division head who cannot be freely talked to after first meeting the Sole Survivor during their tour of the Institute's divisions.
  • Red Herring: His introductory scene where he's urging Max Loken to consider Synths as equal to humans along with being the head of the Robotics Division seems to be all but shouting to the player that he's "Patriot," the Railroad's Mole in the Institute and one of the primary factors aiding in Synth liberation. He's not actually Patriot — His son Liam is.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Binet's wife is mentioned to have died recently, and it's implied that him taking in Eve to serve as his new partner in all but name is in part him trying to move on from his grief.
  • Robotic Spouse: He has taken in the synth Eve as a "personal synth"/surrogate wife, but they're not legally married as she's not considered a person by the Institute.
  • Robosexual: Binet's colleagues frown upon his relationship with Eve, which is heavily implied to have a sexual component.
  • Rule-Abiding Rebel: He tries to argue with Loken that the existence of rapid-eye movement in sleeping Synths is proof of them having souls, but he hastily drops the subject as soon as Loken angrily erupts at him and claims that he can leave the Institute if he's going to keep complaining about it. In other words, while Binet recognizes what the Institute is doing is wrong, he's still not willing to break the group's laws and potentially wind up demoted/exiled/executed for his troubles.
  • Token Good Teammate: Downplayed. He's still a faithful member of the Institute, but he acknowledges synths as sentient beings and is aware of the ethical consequences this has on the Institute research.

Institute Agents and Coursers

    Conrad Kellogg

Voiced by: Keythe Farley

The chief surface operative of the Institute, who kidnaps your son and murders your spouse. You spend the first act of the game tracking him down to kill him in kind.

  • Abusive Parents: His father was either always drunk or away from home and Kellogg suspects that he was a Raider. It got to the point that his mother gave him a gun to kill his father with... when he was ten. No wonder he ran away.
  • Affably Evil: When Kellogg meets you, he does not taunt you, nor is he disrespectful to you in any way. In fact, it's clear that he holds you in high regard, and though he won't give ground, nonetheless respects your mission. He also seems to be actually sympathetic to your pain and anger, telling you that he "understands what that kind of revenge feels like". Then you dip into his memories and learn he knows exactly how you feel.
  • Affectionate Nickname: His mother and wife called him "Connie".
  • The Alcoholic: In addition to his other main vice he seems to drink pretty heavily. His base is littered with discard bottles and he mentions in his past memories that he regularly stopped at bars during his travels east. Given how his life turned out its hard to blame him.
  • Bald of Evil: His crew-cut balding head is one of his most distinctive features. Nick Valentine immediately pinpoints who he is when you mention that he's bald. According to his flashbacks, he became a reckless, merciless gun for hire after the death of his family, and went bald around the same time.
  • The Brute: Of the Institute. He's their main surface operative to do things their synths can't for whatever reason, and since the Institute usually sends synths to take care of "delicate" matters, Kellogg ends up being the one they turn to when they need someone good with a gun.
  • Combat Pragmatist: When you finally catch up to him, he's holed up in a fort protected by over a dozen automated turrets outside and inside, along with a small army of synths. After you manage to smash through most of his defenses, he lures you into a room on the pretense that he wants to talk to you which, in most Fallout games, would give you the opportunity to talk him into giving up. As soon as your dialogue with Kellogg ends, you will find yourself in the middle of a crossfire between him and several Synths, and he will liberally employ Stealth Boys and frag grenades to flush you out of cover.
  • Cyborg: One of the reasons why he still looks like the same guy after 60 years and probably why he's so durable. His loot contains a Cybernetic Brain Augmenter, Cybernetic Limb Actuator and Cybernetic Pain Inhibitor. The Sole Survivor even notes that he's more machine than man upon searching his body.
  • Deadpan Snarker: It isn't given many chances to shine but his long life as a merc seems to have given him a bit of a dark sense of humor:
    "Well, if it isn't my old friend the frozen tv dinner. Last time I saw you, you were cozying up to the peas and apple cobbler."
  • Death Seeker: He honestly does not care if he dies by the Sole Survivor's hand when they face off, and is even hoping they can do it, because being strong enough to take him down would mean they're also strong enough to put up a fight against the Institute.
  • Despair Event Horizon:
    • One could not help but feel that poor Kellogg has long crossed this. Talking to him, seeing the matter-of-fact, resigned way he talks about his past in the memory chamber, one gets the feeling that he no longer cares about anything in life, not the caps, not his past, not his cause... Nothing. There just doesn't seem to be a reason for him to care anymore.
    • During his memories, he seems to be undergoing a second one of these as he tries to reconcile recent events. This is because Shaun/Father, aka "The Old Man" as he calls him now, has decided to let his biological parent loose to kill him, despite Kellogg actually being fond of and even liking Shaun, and trying to fill in for the role he stole from the Sole Survivor. Kellogg immediately recognized this as soon as the Sole Survivor arrived at Fort Hagen, and his final thoughts are of how Shaun betrayed him.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Hunting down and defeating Kellogg marks the end of Act 1.
  • The Dreaded: A lot of people get scared when you mention Kellogg's name. Interestingly, Kellogg himself thinks it about the Sole Survivor, though in a somewhat subdued manner.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: He's left perplexed as to why the Vault 111 raid didn't include re-freezing the rest of the occupants.
  • Evil Counterpart: To the Sole Survivor, particularly a male one. Kellogg is a parent who lost his family to Raiders, only to go on a murderous killing spree. The difference is, rather than develop new bonds and pick himself back up to help the world, he succumbed to his grief and became an amoral mercenary willing to do anything, even things he doesn't really care for, for the right price. He seems to recognize this and actually makes note of the similar nature of his conflict with the Sole Survivor.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: He has a deep, gritty voice, with the Sole Survivor describing it as "like rough sandpaper across your face."
  • Feel No Pain: Upon death, a Pain Inhibitor can be looted from him. Could be a very good reason why he's so damn durable.
  • Foil: Serves as an Evil Counterpart to the Sole Survivor due to the similarities, and differences, in their pasts. Both are parents who lost their children, but while the Sole Survivor have had a more-or-less happy Pre-War life and eventually becomes a key leader of the Commonwealth, Kellogg grew up in the worst of conditions, and has had nothing but pain in his entire life, leading him to become an amoral gun-for-hire.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: He has several scars over the left side of his face. It's one of his most distinguishing features to the point that Nick knows exactly who you're talking about when you simply mention that he's a bald guy with scars.
  • Hand Cannon: Kellogg's signature weapon is a .44 Magnum, one of the most powerful non-energy handguns in the entire game.
  • Happiness Realized Too Late: In his memories, Conrad Kellogg notes that he honestly didn't realize just how happy he was with his wife and child - up until the enemies he'd made over the course of his career murdered both of them. As a result, he's left with nothing but his job as a mercenary to live for, ultimately setting him on a path that ended in him becoming the Institute's personal enforcer and the murderer of the Sole Survivor's spouse.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Wears a very badass bomber jacket getup. It also offers some of the highest damage resistance out of any standard outfit, tempered only by how the base game doesn't allow it to be worn under armor or upgraded with ballistic weave.
  • Hitman with a Heart: For all his ruthlessness, he still seems to have some speck of humanity left. See Pet the Dog below.
  • Invisibility Cloak: Uses Stealth Boys during your fight with him.
  • Kick the Dog: There was no real reason for him to murder Nate/Nora, and even less to turn off life support for everyone else in Vault 111 save for the Sole Survivor except for orders from the Institute.
    • The Ambiguous Situation behind the University Point Massacre makes it uncertain if it was committed under the Institute's orders, or if it was just out of impatience on Kellogg's part (he did shoot a person for refusing to let him kidnap their baby, after all).
  • Made of Iron: Can survive huge amounts of damage. Even a Critical Hit missile aimed at his head does little to stop him.
  • Mercy Kill: He considers his execution of Nate/Nora this, as he feels that was better for them to die than to live with having Shaun taken.
  • Mirror Character:
    • Kellogg lost his wife and child to Raiders and became a scourge on the Wasteland as a result, just like the Sole Survivor. Kellogg, however, never bothers to use it to positive ends and just lets his grief eat him up. Notably, he's fully aware of the similarity and believes this is why the Survivor is the most dangerous man/woman in the Wasteland.
    • To Benny from New Vegas. Like Benny, Kellogg wronging your player character at the start of the game serves as your personal motivation for the first part. Unlike Benny, who has plans to usurp the person/group he's working for despite living the sweet life, Kellogg doesn't seem to have any personal ambition of his own aside from possibly making easy money doing what he's best at. Both carry a signature pistol that they use to commit a brutal crime.
      • To Caesar from New Vegas as well. Like Caesar/Edward Sallow, Kellogg hails from the New California Republic and ran away from his past. But whereas Caesar eventually stopped "running away" and made himself the head of a mighty Legion in the Southwest while burying his past in the process, Kellogg never really stopped running despite being aware that he could never fully escape the weight of it all.
      • He could also be argued as one to a House-aligned Courier. Both men are mercenaries from the Western U.S. in the service of a mysterious, Pre-War scientific power. Like Kellogg, the Courier may optionally be a Cyborg thanks to the Followers' implants or the Think Tank's machinations. The key difference here is alignment: House is cold and ruthless at times, but he has a grand plan for the betterment of mankind, and a good-karma Courier can soften his heavy-handedness at several points. The Institute doesn't have a master plan beyond the body-snatching, Synth-enslaving status quo, and Kellogg is ultimately just a violent stooge who does what he's told. It's telling that no matter how low the Courier sinks on the Karma Meter, the game will never permit them to stoop to kidnapping an innocent child.
    • invoked Finally, he bears some noticeable similarities with Frank Horrigan of the Enclave. Both of them are incredibly dangerous agents of the game's most villainous faction, have remarkably deep voices, take a hell of a lot of effort to finally die, and were once baseline humans turned into Cyborgs by their respective factions. They also both cannot be talked out of their villainy - the series' habit of which they can even allude to. However, Horrigan was explicitly a despicable and monstrous Jerkass prone to Kick the Dog even before the Enclave turned him into a literal monster, while Kellogg was actually a pretty decent person before his entire life fell apart. Also, Horrigan was motivated by his racism against "muties" and reveled in causing violence, while Kellogg is more of a Consummate Professional that doesn't take any real pleasure from his work. Additionally, Horrigan was fanatically loyal to the Enclave since they made him a nigh-immortal Super Soldier (which he was also quite arrogant about), while Kellogg is both heavily implied to be suicidal and ultimately annoyed/unhappy with the Institute's operations. Finally, Kellogg also shows a significant amount of respect for the Sole Survivor, and starts their fight to the death with a fair amount of dignity, while Horrigan pointlessly wiped out the Enclave's own oil rig (which was full of civilians at the time) in a last-bid attempt to killing the Chosen One after he'd already been beaten.
  • Noble Demon: Along with being a Punch-Clock Villain, Kellogg has no illusions about redeeming himself and has made peace with the fact that he'll die a violent death, either on the job or as retribution from someone he wronged. He also sympathizes with the Sole Survivor's desire for revenge, and is prepared to fight them when they finally track him down.
  • Older Than They Look: Thanks to Institute technology, he's looked the same for 60 years.
  • One-Man Army:
    • The Institute recruited this guy for a reason. He is a highly skilled assassin, fully capable of putting down Synths, Assaultrons, Raiders and others by himself with nothing but his signature .44 Magnum and his cybernetic enhancements. He is easily one of the toughest opponents you will face in the early game.
    • He managed to cross an entire continent, from San Francisco to Boston, in order to escape from his past. Not only that, but he did so well before both the rise of Caesar's Legion in the American Southwest and Elder Lyons' exodus to the Capital Wasteland, meaning that the majority of that journey was likely taken through countless lawless, chaotic warzones by himself.
  • Only in It for the Money: By his own admission. However, even his interest in money is debatable - see Despair Event Horizon above.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: It's heavily implied that he outlived both his wife and young daughter, which helped shape him into the man he is today.
  • Pet the Dog: Seems to fulfill a father-like role to your son, whom he kidnapped or more accurately, the synth of your son that the real Shaun created. Also, the entire memory lounger sequence is one giant Pet the Dog moment for Kellogg, showing his Dark and Troubled Past, the few lingering connections he has with those he cared about in life, and generally showcasing his Hitman with a Heart nature.
  • Professional Killer: Not just what Kellogg does, but what he is according to his own worldview. He is so resigned to his own despair and inhumanity that he would be lost if he tried being anything else. He will literally kill anyone for the right price, including children.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Despite being an amoral hitman for the Institute, Kellogg only kills if attacked or if paid to do so. He even attempts to convince the Sole Survivor to turn back since killing them wouldn't earn Kellogg any money and at most would be a chore.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Thanks to being augmented by the Institute's technology. It's shown he was a child when the New California Republic was formed in 2189, making him just over a century old by the time of the game. According to their notes, he could potentially live to be 200 years old.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: Carries a unique .44 Magnum revolver. Presumably, it was given to him by his mother, and modded over the years.
  • Smoking Is Cool: He smokes very often. In fact, the player gets Dogmeat to track him down via the scent of his unique cigars - "San Francisco Sunlights."
  • Starter Villain: Tracking him down and making him pay for killing your spouse and kidnapping Shaun is one of the first goals of the game; after you deal with him, you move onto bigger things.
  • Suspect Is Hatless: Subverted; While the description of "Bald guy with scars" would sound like a common enough descriptor, it's enough for Nick Valentine to pinpoint that you must be talking about Kellogg. Justified since Kellogg had been staying in Diamond City for at least a few months, making it understandable why Valentine would be able to recognize him so quickly.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: After you fight and kill him, you enter a virtual reality chamber to relive his memories and find out that he came from an abusive family and had a wife and daughter who were brutally murdered. Interestingly, this can be subverted, as the Sole Survivor can actually be more angry over the similarities with their own story, with them pointing out how they stayed a decent person while Kellogg plunged into villainy.
  • Tragic Villain: Kellogg isn't malicious or sadistic, but is simply a man who was shown no kindness by the world, and sees no reason to show any in return. In the memory lounger, you discover that he was born in dire conditions, to an abusive father and a tough mother who seemed then to be struggling not to succumb to despair. Then when he grew up, his brief episode of happiness with his family gets wiped out by Raiders, and the combined grief seems to have wrung all the fight out of him. The fact that he chose to become a wandering mercenary rather than Rape, Pillage, and Burn, might suggest that he's not cruel or malicious by nature; he's simply a man broken and numb by the sheer pain the world has put on him, and who chose to linger on until his personal tragedy resolved itself one way or another.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Most of the rest of the Institute try to pass him off as this when they're trying to recruit you, claiming that they never liked him and are glad you killed him. Of course, the effect is somewhat diminished by the fact that they had absolutely no problem letting him do their dirty work for over sixty years prior to that (although not that many members of the Institute know of their own crimes), in addition to the fact that Kellogg's far from the vicious monster they make him out to be.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Of the Institute. When reliving his memories, he mentions that the Institute was ahead of him and managed to use him, their higher ups even knowing that "the backup" he spared (aka the player) would come to kill him.
    "Seems obvious right now that we were bait for our friend from the Vault. The timing couldn't have been an accident. That's not how the old man works. I wonder if he outsmarted me in the end. Another loose end tied up."
  • Villain Respect: The last thing Kellogg thinks about the Survivor is that if they defeated him, the Institute will be at their mercy.
  • Walking the Earth: What he started doing after the death of his family. It's implied that the reason he decided to settle in Boston wasn't personal choice so much as a lack of road to keep moving east on.
  • Worthy Opponent: Kellogg never expected to see the Sole Survivor again after kidnapping their child but the moment they saw them reach his base, was the moment Kellogg realized the Sole Survivor weren't going to stop until they or Kellogg were dead. In his words, "I know what that kind of revenge feels like. None better."
  • Would Hurt a Child: Kellogg notes that while he doesn't like to hurt children, he's done so if necessary.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: As it turns out, Kellogg is (or would be in the near future) the victim of this trope, as his role of elite enforcer for the Institute had largely been filled by the Coursers. It's never spelled out explicitly, but between Father's comments that he gave the order to unseal the Sole Survivor, his own animosity towards Kellogg, and the recovered memories of Kellogg declaring that he "knew it was a mistake" leaving the Sole Survivor alive, it's pretty easy to piece together that the Sole Survivor was unsealed to take Kellogg down. Because, you know, he killed Father's mom or dad.

    A-2018, XPN-20A, and Z4K-97B 

A trio of unique black-armored Synths that guard the reactor room of the Institute. They serve as a "final boss" fight of sorts for any of the 3 out of 4 main quest endings where you decide to destroy the Institute.

  • Custom Uniform: They wear a unique all-black version of the standard Synth armor, that has the unique attribute of breaking apart in sections when shot, much like Power Armor. It's impossible for the player to obtain this armor from them.
  • Elite Mooks: Besides being level-scaled along with all the other enemy Synths in the final mission, the three of them always appear as Legendary enemies.
  • Final Boss: Of the Brotherhood of Steel, Railroad, and Minutemen endings to the main quest.
  • Flunky Boss: The reactor room also has a number of regular Synths fighting you in addition to the 3 of them. On the plus side, you'll be fighting alongside your fellow Minutemen/Railroaders/Knights.
  • Luck-Based Mission: Like other humanoid Legendary enemies, if they spawn with a Legendary weapon they will use it against you if its stats are higher than their default weaponry. While they're equipped with standard Institute firearms by default, and can end up with anything from an anti-mirelurk sniper rifle to a slightly faster-firing plasma gun; if the Random Number God hates you enough, they can very well end up equipped with anti-personnel rocket launchers or explosive miniguns.
  • Wolfpack Boss: There's three of them, although they're spread out enough that you might not end up fighting all 3 of them at the same time.

Voiced by: Derek Phillips

The first Courser that the Sole Survivor encounters at Greenetech Genetics during the "Hunter/Hunted" quest. After putting up a difficult battle he is killed and the Sole Survivor takes his Courser Chip to infiltrate the Institute.

  • Badass Longcoat: His Courser uniform, of course.
  • Creepy Monotone: Like all other Coursers, all of his dialogue is delivered in an unnervingly emotionless monotone, just to drive home that under his skin is only a soulless machine.
  • Oh, Crap!: He breaks into confused muttering if the Sole Survivor uses his reset codes on him before he shuts down.
  • One-Man Army: He provides the player with their first Courser encounter and he does not disappoint. Even after wiping out an entire building filled with Gunners he manages to provide one of the hardest boss battles of the main questline and gives Kellogg, another One-Man Army, a good run for his money.
  • Quizzical Tilt: He tilts his head to the side in mild interest when the Sole Survivor confronts him.
  • Skippable Boss: If the Sole Survivor got his reset codes from Mama Murphy, they can say it aloud to him & have him shut down before the battle even starts.
  • Torture Technician: The Sole Survivor will likely encounter him calmly torturing a Gunner survivor by repeatedly shooting both him and his comrades in front of him in order to get the code to unlock a door and return Jenny/K1-98 to the Institute.
  • Underestimating Badassery: He's a cybernetic Super Soldier who just got done clearing out a whole building of heavily armed soldiers with just his Institute laser pistol. So surely the Wastelander who just walked in wearing improvised armor and holding some garbage rifle will be easy to take care of...
  • The Worf Effect: He's the first Courser the Sole Survivor is likely to encounter in a combat situation, and is found effortlessly killing his way through a building used as a fortress by Gunner mercenaries.


Voiced by: Keythe Farley

A Courser agent sent to the Ticonderoga Railroad safehouse to eliminate all Railorad personal and reclaim any freed Synths. He is encountered during the quest "Operation Ticonderoga" if the player is sided with the Railroad.

  • Arc Villain: For "Operation Ticonderoga" in the Railroad storyline.
  • Badass Longcoat: Like all of his fellow Coursers.
  • Creepy Monotone: Cold and unfriendly, even if the player is currently on good terms with the Institute.
  • Hero Killer: The entire Railroad is put on high alert once his presence is confirmed and they send their best agent out to deal with him. Unfortunately, he has already killed High Rise and several other Railroad agents by the time the player arrives.
  • One-Man Army: Downplayed compared to the other Coursers since he is accompanied by an army of Gen 1 Synths as well as an unnamed backup Courser.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Makes the same mistake many of his fellows do in assuming that he is invincible just because he's a Courser and has a ton of backup.

Institute Scientists and Researchers

    Brian Virgil
Voiced by: Matthew Waterson

A former Institute scientist, who has turned himself into a Super Mutant and fled to the the Glowing Sea to hide from Kellogg.

  • Dangerous Deserter: To the Institute. He deserted them and now poses a potential threat to them.
  • Defector from Decadence: He deserted the Institute out of disgust for his participation in the Institute's FEV experiments.
  • Didn't Think This Through:
    • In his desperation to hide from the Institute, Virgil took a serum to turn himself into a Super Mutant, so he could become immune to radiation and hide in the Glowing Sea. He regrets this decision when the serum starts to affect his intelligence, and needs the Survivor to get the cure.
    • He doesn't do much thinking about the cure, either. If you chose to give him the antidote serum, he ends up trapped in the Glowing Sea forever, because the radiation will kill him if he tries to leave his hiding spot.
  • Driven to Suicide: If the Sole Survivor meets up with him again after having arrived in the Institute and either hasn't found and recovered his antidote or has but successfully lies about it, he'll despair over ever becoming human again and asks the player character to give him a Mercy Kill before he completely loses his sanity and intelligence.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Virgil openly mocks the Railroad and has no problem with Synths being treated as slaves, but even he was horrified by the FEV experiments performed on abducted Wastelanders, which prompted him to destroy the FEV lab and flee the Institute.
  • Exploited Immunity: He turned himself into a mutant in the belief that giving himself innate resistance to radiation would allow him to hide in the Glowing Sea, discouraging the Institute's agents from trying to follow him.
  • Genius Bruiser: He's a Super Mutant scientist. His IQ has taken a few hits from the mutation, but he's still a lot smarter than the average person. Most impressively, he is able to draw you the plans for a working teleporter simply from memory based on comments he overheard from passing colleagues.
  • Meaningful Name: Brian is a name of Celtic, Irish and Gaelic origin meaning "high, noble". He's the Institute's Defector from Decadence based on his moral outrage over the Institute's FEV experiments. Additionally, some translations of the name "Brian" have the meaning of "strength" in the above tongues, which is quite appropriate since he's transformed himself into a Super Mutant to survive in the Glowing Sea.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: His very reasons for leaving the Institute was due to participating in a FEV experiment that only produced the very Super Mutants that terrorize the Commonwealth.
    Everything that we've done, the lives we've taken... If there is a god, may he have mercy on us all.
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Played with. He was a bio-engineering specialist, but is able to draw up up schematics to build a teleporter device that can hijack the relay teleportation signals the Institute uses to teleport yourself into the base. However, he emphasizes that kind of thing isn't what he knows; he's mostly designing it based on guesswork and anecdotes from other scientists who knew more than him, and he isn't even sure it'll work. For that matter it starts to fall apart when you use it and will never work again afterward.
  • Properly Paranoid: Averted, despite the great lengths Virgil went to to hide from the Institute, they knew exactly where he was and almost certainly would have killed him if the Sole Survivor hadn't intervened by killing the guy who was assigned to kill him.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: He'll be horrified if you blew up the Institute, stating that for all the horrible things they've done he can't condone mass murder on that scale (even if you issued the evacuation order, and you have no way of telling him, either). If you do this after curing him, he'll just coldly tell you to leave. If you did so before you cure him, he'll be furious enough to try and attack you.

    Liam Binet

Voiced by: Finneas O'Connell

An Institute member who works with Synths.

  • Code Name: Patriot.
  • Driven to Suicide: Completing the Railroad ending shows that he killed himself after you blew up the Institute, calling you an Ungrateful Bastard for killing his family after he helped you save the synths.
  • Establishing Character Moment: One by proxy — The first time you meet his father is in the Robotics area, trying to no avail to convince his colleagues that Gen 3 Synths are, in fact, self-aware due to their ability to dream.
  • Expy: Can be seen as one of Arcade Gannon from Fallout: New Vegas. Both are scientist who belong or once belonged to insular organization most regard as the enemy. However both of them are idealists with a good heart but can't have a really "happy" ending no matter what the player's choices arenote . Depending on the player's choices they both may even commit suicide after the conclusion of the main story.
  • Foreshadowing: See Establishing Character Moment above.
  • Internal Reformist: When he's not helping Gen-3 Synths escape the Institute, he tries to convince Father and his colleagues that Gen-3 Synths are truly self-aware.
  • The Mole: He's actually working for the Railroad.
  • Token Good Teammate: He's the one who helps the Gen 3 synths escape from the Institute, allowing the Railroad to save them.
  • Walking Spoiler: As this page will attest, he's a *very* important character in the game that several major plot threads revolve around.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Delivers one to the Sole Survivor via his suicide note after you destroy the Institute with the Railroad.

    Lawrence Higgs

Voiced by: Roger Jackson

A member of the Institute's BioScience division, he's one of the very few Institute scientists who isn't that impressed with their creation of Synths. Angry at you for being named Father's successor, he and Max Loken seal off the Institute's food supply, forcing the Sole Survivor to deal with them.

  • A Million Is a Statistic: A variant. He doesn't seem to be that concerned about the dangerous fallout that could result (both inside the Institute and in the Commonwealth itself) from infighting within the Institute if Father's successor doesn't have a peaceful transition of power. The Sole Survivor can even call him out on this.
  • Berserk Button: Having his opinions ignored. He's already angry about his concerns about the over-proliferation of Synths falling on deaf ears, so the Sole Survivor, a largely unknown outsider, being named Father's successor pushes him off the deep end to the point where he and Loken outright revolt.
  • The Exile: If the Sole Survivor manages to peacefully defuse Higgs' and Loken's "rebellion," a possible punishment for them can be forcibly exiling them to the Wasteland.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Amusingly, it's implied that the Institute's scientists pretty much treat him the same way that the Railroad's members treat Dr. Carrington.
  • Ignored Expert: He feels that he's ignored by his colleagues for far too long.
  • Irony: If the Sole Survivor agrees with him on the Institute's over-reliance on Synths when they first arrive in the Institute, he'll remark that "Maybe some fresh faces around here will do some good." His attempted revolt against Father and the Directorate is based around you being named Father's successor.
    • His rather extreme response to the Sole Survivor being named Father's successor is implied by Newton Oberly to actually have increased the Sole Survivor's support since the other scientists think Higgs' method goes too far in potentially starving them all to death.
  • Jerkass: He's not the most pleasant person to be around.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • Considering how the Sole Survivor is a dangerous outsider that very few within the Institute really know that much about aside from Father, he's not exactly wrong to be mad about your quick ascension up the ranks.
    • He also makes some pretty good points to the Sole Survivor when he complains that Synths monopolize the Institute's work-load, as he feels it makes the scientists lazy and harder for them to properly innovate.
  • Kick the Dog: His Establishing Character Moment is him yelling at a janitorial synth for doing a poor job, and threatening to have it scrapped for parts so that "Maybe something of value will come out of you!"
  • Meaningful Name: It's likely not a coincidence that he's a notable scientist whose name is "Lawrence Higgs."
  • Only Sane Man: Sees himself as this, considering how he's not that impressed with the Institute's greatest creation.
  • Pet the Dog: After Shaun dies, he offers his condolences to the Sole Survivor.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: He's right to be concerned about the Institute's over-reliance on Synths. However, his fears are more based on it rendering the Institute's scientists lazy and unimaginative (which is actually a pretty fair concern), rather than the possibility of Synths revolting against the Institute.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: If the Sole Survivor points out that the rest of the Institute doesn't entirely agree with his methods, he smugly responds that they don't have to agree with him, as he's seized control of the Institute's food supply: Now, if they want to be able to eat, the Institute will have take his opinions into account now - whether they actually want to or not.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: With enough Charisma, the Sole Survivor can convince Higgs to give them a chance at running the Institute, leading him and Loken to peacefully stand down.
  • Take a Third Option: The Sole Survivor can either defuse Higgs and Loken's attempted revolt by either hacking a terminal so as to lift their lockdown and murder them both, sneak through the abandoned FEV lab so as to kill them in a different way, peacefully talk Higgs and Loken down so that they will support you in becoming the new Director...or releasing the Synth Gorillas in the BioScience division, whereupon they immediately kill both Loken and Higgs.
  • Unsportsmanlike Gloating: He lampshades this if you let him stay around the Institute, with him snarking that the Sole Survivor shouldn't gloat about letting him live & defeating him.

     Max Loken 
Voiced by: Dave Fennoy

A member of the Institute's Robotics division, and who is partly in charge of the new updates made to the Institute's Synths. Angry at you for being named Father's successor, he and Lawrence Higgs seal off the Institute's food supply, forcing the Sole Survivor to deal with them.

  • A Lighter Shade of Gray: He's still a proponent of Synth slavery and willingly rebels against the Institute with Higgs...but can help talk Lawrence down with the Sole Survivor from their attempted coup and is genuinely concerned about Alan Binet (as they're close friends).
  • The Exile: If the Sole Survivor manages to peacefully defuse Higgs' and Loken's "rebellion," a possible punishment for them can be forcibly exiling them to the Wasteland.
  • Hard on Soft Science: Loken outright tells Alan that the Institute's residents are "men of science, not philosophers," and criticizes him for trying to think otherwise.
  • Pet the Dog: Talking to him or looking at his terminals will show that his arguing with Binet is rooted in how they're actually good friends, and he's been trying to look out for him after his wife recently passed away. In hindsight, his angry debate with Binet is likely Anger Born of Worry out of concern for his friend inadvertently digging his own grave (i.e., Binet inadvertently pissing off the SRB if he continues to argue for Synths being equal to humans]]).
  • Shut Up, Kirk!: When he gets sufficiently exasperated by Alan Binet insisting Gen 3 Synths have souls, he'll angrily point out that if Binet is so offended by the Institute's policies, than he can just leave the Institute and go to the Commonwealth if he's going to complain so much.

    Alana Secord
Voiced by: Ellen Dubin

Second-in command of the Synth Retention Bureau.

  • A Lighter Shade of Gray: She's dedicated to recovering synths and taking them back to the Institute. However, she tends to focus on synths captured by Raiders or other threats - namely, synths that actually want to return to the Institute. Additionally, she's a lot nicer than Justin is.
  • Noble Bigot: She's simply doing her job as a member of the Synth Retention Bureau. Unfortunately, that job is forcibly returning Synths to the Institute.
  • Only Sane Employee: She points out that Justin antagonizing the other divisions, as well as the rivalries between departments in general, just makes their jobs harder to perform.