[Various SOLO + GURPS] Semiotic Apophany

g047br41n

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Yeah, and it's pretty crazy how tough it is to just survive these adventures considering these are supposed to be solo games. D&D looks like it was a lot more cutthroat back in the day.
 

Coorlim

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It can be a little frustrating, to be honest, but something I've come to expect.
 

Hituro

Eager Critmouse
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Yeah, and it's pretty crazy how tough it is to just survive these adventures considering these are supposed to be solo games. D&D looks like it was a lot more cutthroat back in the day.
I think that's deliberate. It is the same principle as Fighting Fantasy, lots of lethal dead ends, because they expect people to either re-try or backtrack and cheat
 

Coorlim

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A month goes by in this quiet mountain town. I was laid up in the inn recovering for a bit, but Roderick handled things - calling for his church to send some heavies to deal with the cult. He invited me to go with when the cleared out the caverns, but nah, man… I’m on vacation. I think he was disappointed, but he understood.

Things warmed up in the area not long after. I tolerated, again, as an eccentric foreigner with a lot of money - the gold I looted goes fast, but I’m pretty sure I’ll jump again before I run out. I feel I should be training or something for the next jump, but between you and me? I just want to relax.

I do get to know the locals fairly well. They put up with my lack of linguistic skills because I’m so generous with drinks down at the tavern. I consider getting a job just to feel useful, but I don’t really have any applicable skills. I think most of the locals assume I’m an adventurer. That’s true, isn’t it?

I was well rested and calm when the jump came. Maybe that’s why it hit me so hard.

You ever have those dreams where you’re naked in school? What about the dreams where you suddenly remember there’s a class you haven’t been going to, and the final is TODAY.

I have dreams like that, but about work. I used to do a lot of temping, and I’d frequently find myself in positions where I didn’t really “get” what I was supposed to be doing, or the workload was so light that I’d finish in an hour and then have to pretend to be busy for another seven.

My next jump was like that.

One minute I’m enjoying an ale in the tavern, the next I’m sitting in an office chair in front of a computer running Microsoft Excel on a big ol’ CRT. I’m dressed business casual - short-sleeved shirt, clipon tie, slacks, black shoes. I rub my face; clean shaven.

I’m temping.

I look around, and I’m in a cube farm open office layout. Somehow this gives me more anxiety than being called a murderer and chased by an entire village. I pat myself down and find a wallet.

It’s my driver’s license, my picture, but gives my birthdate in 1960 and expires in 2001. The Nokia brick phone in my pocket confirms that it’s March of 2000, but what really bothers me is that it’s a Florida license.

“Nope.” I stand up, grab the laptop bag next to my chair, turn off the computer, and get out. I don’t care if I jump again right away - I’m well rested, in good health. Nothing good ever happens in Florida.

There’s a bank of elevators at the end of the hall. I hit the button and get in, joining an executive-lookin’ type and a guy wearing a leather jacket and jeans with a duffel bag, standing at opposite sides of the back. There’s some static between them, so I just step off to the side.

The doors close. We drop another few floors, and I can feel the tension between these two. Irritation and a little fear from both of them. I keep my eyes on the numbers as we descend.

At floor five the doors open again, and a man and a woman get on. The guy’s dressed super flashy in a lime sportscoat, shades, and more jewelry than a handful of Mr. Ts, and the woman - dressed more professionally - sports an impressive shiner.

Shades lowers his glasses and looks at me, then jerks his thumb at the woman. “Know what you’re thinking, bud, but it wasn’t me.” He laughed at his own ‘joke.’

The woman pushed past him and hit the elevator button. She’s nervous. Not of him. Just kind of… hyperaware. Taking everyone’s measure, especially Jacket’s. And I can tell why - dude sticks out like a sore thumb.

We drop down past the second floor and the elevator gives a sudden jolt, gears above giving a horrible grinding sound. The overhead lights go out, and we’re left with the amber emergency lighting.

“Oh, fucking great.” The Suit pushes past me and hits the emergency open door, but nothing happens. “Just what I need.”

I sigh. I’d hoped to avoid the plot, but I think I might have blundered right into it.

Shades grabs the emergency phone out of its box and gives a listen. After about a minute, he hangs up.

“Nobody pick up?” Suit asks.

“Yeah but they didn’t say nothin’,” Shades aid. “Just kinda breathed into the phone… then I think I heard gunshots.”

Shiner perks up. “Gunshots? Are you sure?” She has a slight accent. Eastern European, I think.

“Pretty sure.”

Nobody knows what to say after that. Shades and Suit try their phones, but neither has a signal. We lapse into silence for twenty or thirty minutes, waiting for emergency services, most of us sitting on the floor, except Shiner, who is leaning against the wall.

“You did me dirty, Miller,” Jacket says, shaking his head.

Suit lifts his head. “You brought this on yourself, Gene. You should have taken the bereavement leave.”

“Did me dirty,” Gene repeats.

“This is your problem right here,” Miller said. “Blaming everyone else for your problems. Nobody made you drink on your lunch break. Nobody made you go off on poor Sue. Nobody twisted your arm and made you come in so soon after Carol’s death-”

Gene jumped to his feet, pulling a revolver out of his duffel bag. “You keep her name out of your mouth!” He pointed the gun at Miller. “You don’t say her name!”

“Jesus!” Shades moved away from Miller.

“Easy-” Shiner said, rising to a crouch.

“Holy shit!” Miller raised his arms. “Gene, no!”

“You don’t know!” Gene half-sobbed. “You don’t know!”

The woman lunges before he can pull the trigger, shoving his arm up, and the report from the revolver in the small metal box we’re in is deafening. I’d moved too, pushing Miller against the wall and out of the line of fire. I made a brief eye contact with Shiner over my shoulder.

She tripped him, pulling the revolver out of his hand as he fell, and he lunged for his duffel.

I slipped a foot through its strap, pulling it out of reach and picking it up. Inside I found a shotgun, flashlight, and boxes and boxes of ammunition.

Shades pulled Gene back, away from me, and I held the bag out of reach.

“Jesus, Gene,” Miller muttered.

Gene struggled against Shades’s grip for a few seconds, and then collapsed, sobbing again.

Spoiler: Show
This is a rather lengthly introduction to our next module, which I’ll refrain from naming here, as it’s a bit of a giveaway as to what’s to come. This is another group module rather than a solo adventure, and I’m going to be accompanied by a handful of NPCs of varying competency.


We stay that way for awhile, me holding the bag, Shiner with the revolver, all of us watching Gene. We didn’t have anything to restrain him with, but he’d sort of retreated into himself, defeated. I wondered if that was it, if the scenario was about defusing the elevator system, but it seemed too simple, too quick.

Talk was sparse as they waited for the elevator to start working again and I waited for the other shoe to drop. Introductions were made. Miller was at least passingly familiar with me, apparently the VP of my department. Shades was Rick, who owned a jewelry store in the lobby. Shiner was Vera, an intern with another firm. Aside from the usual hemming and hawing about when they’d get things moving again nobody said much of substance, though Vera kept giving me these meaningful looks that I couldn’t interpret.

Did she know me in this reality? She wasn’t really acting “familiar.” Maybe she was the next plot hook.

Well, no. The next plot hook was gunshots from somewhere above us.

“Shit.” I jumped, pulling the shotgun up and pointing it at the ceiling. I’m not a gun guy - I’d fired a shotgun once or twice in Boy Scouts, but throughout this whole adventure I’d never really had to handle firearms. Still, my response to the danger was instant and unthinking.

“Is that loaded?” Vera’s voice was quiet.

“I haven’t checked.” I should have checked.

She handed me the revolver. “Here, trade me.”

Was it that obvious that I didn’t know what I was doing? We swapped guns, and she took the duffel. I’d had revolvers back in the Cowboy scenario I’d run away from, Mad Mesa or whatever it was called, but’d never used them.

Shades had a pistol too, something sleek and modern.

There was a sudden thud as something heavy landed on the roof of the elevator.

“You have friends in the building?” Vera asked Gene without looking at him.

More gunshots came before he could answer, this time fired down at the elevator directly, pinging off of its roof. I barely had time to flinch before it fell, plunging us down several floors before stopping with a crash.

Spoiler: Show
Everybody takes 1d damage to a random body part.

I take 2 damage to the left leg.
Vera takes 3 damage to the abdomen.
Miller takes 4 damage to the torso.
Gene takes 4 damage to the left hand, crippling it. (3 taken, 1 excess)
Poor Rick takes 6 damage to the right arm, crippling it. (5 taken, 1 excess)


I slipped when we crashed, banging my shin hard, but not hard enough to do serious damage. I pulled the flashlight out of the duffel bag and flicked it on. Vera and Miller had been thrown to the floor, and it looked like Gene and Rick had the worst of it. It was dark, darker

“My freakin’ arm!” Rick’s arm was twisted, held clutched to his chest. A sprain at least.

Gene’s hand wasn’t looking much better.

Vera picked up Rick’s gun. “Can you shoot left handed?”

He took it from her, awkwardly. “Yeah, no, I dunno.”

She took it back and handed it to Miller. “You take it. Just in case.”

Miller held his hands up. “No, I… I’ve never used one before.”

I stood, checking the revolver, hoping the fall hadn’t damaged it. “Just point it at whatever you want to die and pull the trigger.” God, I sounded like an action movie asshole.

Miller stepped back. “No, let’s… look, you guys can cover Gene without me just fine.”

“We have bigger problems than Gene,” Vera said.

It was my turn to give her a look. “You know something?”

She handed me a box of .38 shells for the revolver. “Nothing you don’t know.”

“What do you mean by that?”

She held my gaze for a moment. “You heard the gunshots. Something’s going on here. If it isn’t Gene, it’s something else.” She knew more than she was letting on. That much was clear.

The elevator doors had been popped apart in our landing, so Miller and I managed to pry them the rest of the way open. Beyond we were in some kind of basement lobby, a concrete-floored room with a desk in one corner and a dead security guard in the center of the floor, lying face-down in a pool of his own spreading blood, the back of his head blown out.

“That’s not good.” I said.

Miller stared down at him wordlessly.

“Jesus,” Rick said.

“I didn’t do this,” Gene said hoarsely. “I didn’t do anything. I haven’t hurt anyone.”

“Yet.” Miller looked away.

I shone my flashlight around the room, but it was empty other than the desk. A pair of double-doors at the opposite end led to a hallway, and two other elevators in the bank, though it didn’t look like either had any power.

“What now?” I asked Vera. She seemed like she knew what to do.

“Head up to the lobby, see if we can get out that way.” She looked at the guard. “If we’re lucky, it might just be terrorists.”

“Terrorists?” Rick sounded incredulous. “And if we’re unlucky?”

She locked eyes with me briefly, and shook her head. “Let’s just go.” She took up a position near the doors, shotgun leveled, a totally normal way for an office intern to act, cool under pressure. Was she a spy or something? One of the terrorists? Undercover cop?

I took up a position on the other side, revolver in hand. “I’m going to try the door.”

The others stood around us in a loose collective, idly holding their weapons, not sure what to do. They wouldn’t be much help. I could smell their fear, their nervousness. Or maybe it was my own.

I gave the handle a quick tug. “Locked.”

Vera tilted her head. “Somebody check the guard.”

“For what?” Miller asked.

“Keys.”

Miller looked at Rick. “Should I do it?”

Rick was holding his injured arm to his chest. “I can’t.”

Miller nodded, and walked almost gingerly over to the dead man. It was obvious he’d never even seen a dead guy before. I could sympathise. After rifling through the guard’s pockets, Miller sat back on his heels.

“Find any keys?” Rick asked.

“No he… his throat is torn out.”

“What?” Rick asked.

Miller stood, brushing off his slacks. “Something tore out his throat.”

“Jesus,” Rick said. “Like the shot to the head wasn’t enough.”

“Maybe it wasn’t,” I said.

“What?” Gene asked.

“Nothing,” I shook my head. Torn out throat. That wasn’t normal terrorists. That was a wild animal. Werewolves? I doubted we had silver bullets.

“I’m going to bust the lock,” Vera said. “Get ready.”

Hoping that “ready” meant “ready to shoot stuff”, I nodded and handed Miller the flashlight before adopting what I hoped looked like a strong shooting stance, both hands on the revolver.

Giving me a final nod, Vera reversed her grip on the shotgun and brought the stock down, hard, on the locking mechanism, popping it out of its casing.

I pushed the doors open with a foot, revealing only darkness.

Miller swept the flashlight beam across it, illuminating a long hall. He didn’t keep the light steady, but I could make it out that someone had pushed filing cabinets and desks out into the hall among what looked like blood spatters on the floors and walls. A handfull of figures were just standing there in the darkness, as if waiting.

“What the hell?” Miller shone the beam on a woman dressed in a charcoal pencil skirt.

She turned, slowly, and we saw to our horror that strips of flesh had been peeled from her face and neck, exposing the bone and muscle beneath.

Spoiler: Show
Fright checks galore. Miller, Rick, and I pass. Vera and Gene fail. Vera is stunned for 1 second, Gene for 4.

With this reveal I can say that we’re in All Flesh Must Be Eaten’s scenario Coffee Break of the Living Dead.

We’ll session break on this cliffhanger, awarding myself 2 CP which I’ll bank for now. I have 2/10 hp.
 
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