Pretty close. Characters could get out one dialogue (if they were behind a door or immediately after a transition), but no one could be marked as immortal (other than kids) and designers had to design their quests assuming that players killed every NPC as soon as they were able to pull a trigger.”— J.E. Sawyer on the design in Fallout: New Vegas
Essential is an attribute which can be assigned to non-player characters in games which use the Gamebryo engine (or its modified successor the Creation engine), including Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas (original Gamebryo engine), and Fallout 4 (Creation engine). The equivalent attribute for items is quest item, which should not be confused with the general usage of that term.
The main effect of this attribute is that the character cannot be killed, instead it will be temporarily rendered unconscious and wake up again later. In both games, all children in the game are essential characters, so even if you find a way to attack them, they still cannot be killed. This was done for legal reasons.
The purpose of this attribute is to prevent the player character from rendering quests incompletable by killing characters which are necessary for that quest.
In Fallout: New Vegas, there are few essential non-player characters aside from all children, a handful of robot characters and all Companions (unless playing hardcore mode). One of the essential robots is the securitron Victor, who is essential early on in the game but losses his essentialness later on. Another securitron named Yes Man is also one of the very few essential characters, but is only essential in mind and not body as he can be killed but will just transfer to new body once his old one is destroyed. The last essential robot is Festus, a unique animatronic cowboy at the Sunset Sarsaparilla Headquarters.
- If you have Lawbringer or Contract Killer, essential non-player characters generate a finger or ear each time they are knocked unconscious.
- Quote comes from a post made by J.E. Sawyer on the Something Awful forums.