The Portland Apocalypse, Session #2: “Those guys are trying to steal that stuff we stole!”
- Cyprys Hill, who actually put it in his mouth… (PC)
- Big Bad Dog, large dog of indeterminate breed (NPC ally — Not a pet. He’s his own man.)
- Stopit, pet Jack Russell terrier (NPC pet)
- Farrah Fawcett-Adler, bloodied brawler (PC)
- Hanna Marlow, proud survivor (PC)
- Steve Borden, following the herd (PC)
- Robert (“Bob”) T. Builder, hungry hard worker (PC)
In the background:
- Cauliflower Jones, farmer with a broken arm (PC)
The morning of 22 December 2012, Steve stepped outside onto the fire escape. In the previous session, he had appeared as an unnamed extra: the guy who had been hanging around with Daryl, who joined in Cyprys’ project to break open rooms in the storage facility. This session, he’s stepped up to full PC status, picked up a name, and lost the coin flip for the dawn watch. Figuring he might as well take advantage of his situation, he went outside for a smoke. While there, he was that the day was cold, windy, and heavily overcast. There was a strange cotton candy pink tint to the morning light.
The others awoke, one by one. Cyprys lingered for as long as he could, faking sleep. When he finally had to get up, he went scrounging around and dug up an old, dog-eared packet of instant coffee for himself. He mentioned for the first time, but not the last, that in a tough situation, any survivor needed, at minimum, a spoon and a towel.
Farrah saw the unusual light and spent some time watching out the window, noticing several things. There was a dusting of something like pink snow, that wasn’t snow. Whatever it was, it was light enough to be stirred by the wind. From the pattern of the accumulation, it looked like it had been blown in from the north, causing the bulk of it to blow over their place of refuge. The parking lot had only a dusting, while there were signs of drifts on the rooftops on the other side of the highway. She also noted that she didn’t see Oxford’s corpse, nor his pistol, though she did see blood on the ground near where he must have fallen.
There was no sign of killer worms.
Bob decided to take his mind off the situation by getting to work. His first project was to get the lights back on. He investigated the building’s electrical system, finding that there had been some kind of overload that had fried it. It seemed that the problem wasn’t restricted just to the building, but had affected the entire area. He might be able to get a generator up and running, given time, but short of that, the lights were staying off.
It didn’t take long for people to start getting hungry. Hanna dipped in to her stash of energy bars for an improvised breakfast, but there was nothing for anyone else. A lucky break poking around in other folks’ stored boxes turned up a sealed MRE and a Vietnam-era canteen. The MRE was split several ways, but wasn’t enough to fill anyone’s stomach entirely.
Meanwhile, an old friend of Cyprys’ showed up. Big Bad Dog showed himself on the far side of the parking lot, bearing a dead rabbit. Cyprys wanted to let him in, but with his injured leg, he wasn’t going to be able to make it down the fire escape stairs, climb down a ladder, carry an extra-large dog, and return.
After some negotiation, plans were made. Being on crutches, Farrah and Cyprys would stay behind and continue trying to wring out useful equipment from the storage facility’s contents. Bob, Hanna, and Steve would walk around the corner to the nearby mega-grocery, where Jones had seen the rioting the night before, and see if they could pick up food and medical supplies.
The “away team” took their time making their way in stages from the top of the fire escape, to the bottom of the ladder, and finally to the ground. They paused to observe at each step. Seeing the pink dust, Hanna wrapped a bandanna around her lower face to act as a makeshift dust mask. On the ground, Bob tried to scrape together some of the pink “snow” to see if it would form a snowball, but found that it was a dry powder, unsuitable to the job. Seeing this, Cyprys went several steps further, and licked some off the fire escape.
[GM Note: If I sound surprised, it’s because I am. I did not see that coming.]
It didn’t taste like anything in particular, just dusty and faintly bitter.
BBD approached at Cyprys’ call. Bob still had possession of the storage facility’s caretaker’s key-ring, so he opened a ground-floor door to let the dog in, re-locking it behind him. BBD was able to quickly make his way through the halls to Cyprys, where he handed over the rabbit. While Cyprys was no expert, he was able to skin and clean the meat. His explanation of how he intended to prepare the meat caused Farrah to take over the actual cooking. She used the rabbit, plus the remains of the MRE, to cook up a “rustic” stew, which they split between themselves and the NPCs, with the dogs getting the bones.
The end result of this was that everybody got at least a skimpy breakfast, even the NPCs… except for Bob. He was always either showing up fives minutes too late or leaving ten minutes too early to actually get a serving whenever food turned up.
Hanna, Bob, and Steve made their twisted way up out of the gorge towards the grocery store. As they turned to head north, they spotted a dead body lying on the street. The person had bled profusely from the eyes, nose, mouth, and ears. All three were stunned at the sight. Steve threw up what little breakfast he had had. They briefly discussed how to proceed, deciding to keep their distance and pass by on the far side of the road.
The night before, in between the train wreck and the bright flash that killed their phones, Jones had spotted a “medical” icon on the map, but hadn’t had time to investigate further. The three found themselves nearby, so they swung by to see if there was any help to be had. There wasn’t the salvation they had hoped for, as it turned out to be a dental clinic. They pressed on, knowing they could find more generally-useful supplies at the grocery store.
There, they found a trashed parking lot, showing clear signs of the struggle the night before. As they approached, they noticed another corpse, but this one was dead of violence. Even worse, Steve recognized the man as a co-worker. He had apparently died of a head wound and been left where he had fallen, in front of the store’s main entrance. The entrance itself was barricaded from inside, with boxes and cardboard covering the glass.
They were challenged as they approached. A voice from inside rudely asked them their business. After some back-and-forth, it was determined that the party could offer $13 and a small knife, which the occupants were willing to trade for two gallons of mostly-melted ice cream. The party balked at the high prices.
While the discussion went out in the front, Steve wandered around back, looking for another entrance. He found one, manned by a security guard with a billy club. They had words, with the sentry demanding that Steve turn around and go back the way he came. Rather than escalate to a physical encounter, he did so. Returning to hear the outrageously high prices, he spent some time loudly and foully discussing the habits and parentage of the store’s occupants. This drew no reaction from inside.
After Steve wound down, the three walked away from the store, then circled back around towards the rear from the opposite direction, hoping to get a look at the dumpsters. They located them without being challenged. While Bob stood lookout, the others went dumpster-diving. It didn’t take long to come up empty-handed. Apparently the last pickup had only been the day before. The recycling bin was more fruitful, offering a variety of empty containers that could be used to carry water. They set to work, filling Hanna’s pack with the best of the lot.
Before too long, Bob spotted a guard walking the perimeter. The three stood their ground. Finding them, the guard brandished his club and shouted at them to leave. Hanna was having none of it. She began pelting him with empty plastic bottles, inflicting no injury to his body but badly puncturing his dignity. When he lost his temper and made as if to attack, she grabbed up a glass bottle and told him to bring it on!
Not caring for the odds, the guard backed off, telling them he’d be back in a minute with friends, and they had better be gone when he returned. Counting this as a success, the party quickly gathered up their loot of empties and headed back to camp.
On the way, they again passed by the dental clinic, where they paused to knock on the door, in case anyone was there. There was no answer. Steve tossed out the idea of maybe forcing the lock, since they had wounded people back at camp. Hanna and Bob both rejected this outright as looting, something they weren’t going to stand for, and Steve didn’t press the subject.
Meanwhile, back at the storage facility, Farrah decided to take a nap, leaving Cyprys on guard. He sat in the hall, playing his guitar and singing. This covered the sound of approaching footsteps. When Cyprys looked up, he got punched in the jaw and fell to the ground, unconscious. Farrah awoke to the sound of BBD being kicked. She struggled to her feet to confront the attacker as he came through the door.
The man had his face concealed, but his business was clear. (We joked that when he turned around, his windbreaker had “LOOTER” spelled out across the back.) He started delivering a “give me everything you’ve got” speech, but broke off after looking around the room and realizing they didn’t have all that much. He fled deeper into the building. Farrah was performing first aid when the “away team” returned.
The two groups traded stories, to everyone’s dismay, while those who had been out in the cold warmed themselves. There were some bitter words in several directions, with nearly everyone blaming someone else over a lack of either effort, or results, or both.
Finally, the group worked out a new plan. They found a heavy-duty four-wheeled dolly in the storage facility’s halls. Cyprys, Farrah, and many improvised containers settled down on the dolly, which Steve got behind to push. They left the building, heading to the south, hoping to buy food or find help.
Bob and Hanna were left to walk around the outside of the building, trying to figure out how the invading looter had entered. They found a broken window. Climbing through, they blocked it with nearby boxes after failing to find anything more sturdy to nail over it. They then finished their walk and returned to the third floor camp.
Not by accident, this left the honest, law-abiding folk back at camp. As soon as they were out of sight, the less-reputable PCs agreed that their mission was to obtain food and supplies, not necessarily to buy it. After all, they weren’t looters, they were just in a tight spot and doing what they had to, just to survive. Hanna and Bob were great folks, of course, salt of the earth and obviously trustworthy and all that, they just weren’t ready to face facts. The times, they were a-changin’. If a few locks needed picked (or maybe broken, if need be), well, if that was the price of living, then…
Just on the far side of the highway, they made for a diner with a broken window. As they approached, they saw a woman in a nightgown shuffle around the corner. She seemed dazed, and unmindful of the cold, despite showing clear signs of suffering from it. They tried to speak to her, but she didn’t reply, or even look in their direction.
Farrah and Steve shrugged and went to enter the apparently-deserted diner, but Cyprys wouldn’t let it go. He hobbled over to the woman, moving to drape one of his blankets around her shoulders. At his touch, she suddenly snapped out of her trance, screaming at the top of her lungs and flailing wildly at him with both arms! Shocked, he fell to the ground trying to get away from her. As soon as she was unencumbered, she went back to staring into space and shuffling aimlessly about.
Unsettled, the three got back to looting the diner. Farrah immediately took all the cash from the till, and found a first aid kit stashed under the counter. Cyprys collected spoons for everyone, and a dishtowel. Steve made a beeline for the kitchen, figuring to use his knowledge of the food service industry to locate the most valuable food with the longest shelf life.
The only hiccup in Steve’s plan was the dead man blocking the kitchen door. This appeared to be an employee of the diner who had died with the same bleeding-from-the-everywhere symptoms as the first corpse, on the street. By now, Steve was starting to come to terms with the sloppy distribution of dead folks, so he didn’t let him slow him down too much.
The happy looters loaded up the dolly with 45 meals in miscellaneous canned and dried goods, 13 packs of cigarettes, several packages of Sterno, and a collection of pots and pans. Cyprys taped a steak knife on a broom for use as a spear. (It is worth noting that Cyprys does not possess any training in Armoury or any other skill that might conceivably allow one to make an effective spear.) Steve put on a apron and filled its front pocket with salt. After a short rest and a warm-up, with a snack taken from the diner’s perishable stores, they were ready to go. With the lame using the dolly as a crutch, they turned back to camp.
Hanna and Bob were watching a guy in a hoodie who they had spotted stumbling around the parking lot. They saw him trip over a curb and fall flat on his face, clearly breaking his nose, then struggle back to his feet over several minutes. They weren’t sure what to make of it.
As the looters returned, Stopit ran on ahead, coming into view from the fire escape. Bob spotted the little dog three stories below, as he skidded to a halt and started barking at a parked car. A man carrying a baseball bat stood up from where he had been crouched, concealed behind the car.
The returning looters spoke with the newcomer, who explained that he was out to steal their stolen goods. They weren’t impressed with his threats, so he whistled for his two buddies, also armed with bats, who emerged from a nearby doorway and began approaching the dolly with a menacing air.
At the top of the fire escape, BBD started scratching to be let out. Bob obliged. He and Hanna followed the dog out the door and down the stairs. Hanna readied her trusty tire iron, while Bob had previously picked up a long piece of scrap wood to use as a club. When they made it to ground level, Hanna sprinted towards the fight, while Bob took a few seconds to jab at the broken-nosed “zombie”, knocking him down.
In the parking lot, the two minions, Al and Sturges, moved to either side of the dolly, engaging with Farrah and Cyprys. The ringleader circled around the fight, seeking to take out Steve and gain control of the booty.
Farrah’s fight rapidly turned brutal. Her opponent moved in quickly and landed a lucky strike, disabling her right arm. For those keeping score, that left her short one leg and one arm. Still, she’s a brawler, so she moved in for the clinch. She threw her left arm around the man’s neck, alternating grapples and headbutts. Unable to avoid entanglement, the man let go of his bat to punch Farrah repeatedly in the head. As they wrestled, she delivered a steady stream of mind-screw into his ear, which finally did the trick. Her opponent quit trying to inflict injury and started trying to escape.
Cyprys tried to talk his opponent into surrender, but failed. He waved his “spear” around threateningly, trying to keep his enemy at a distance. As the man approached, Steve pulled his hand from his apron pocket and flung a handful of salt into the man’s eyes! This kept the enemy on the defensive long enough for BBD to come up behind him. After BBD’s initial pounce failed, he turned and, following Cyprys’ shouted directions, landed a successfully bite/grapple on the man’s groin. In a world with no armor, that’s a pretty effective fight-ender.
The enemy leader eventually found his opening and ran up on Steve, aiming a vicious strike at his knee, which landed squarely. Leg now crippled, Steve fell to the ground. The dolly rolled back down the slight incline, only stopping once it was firmly wedged by Steve’s body.
The enemy leader dropped his bat to grab the dolly, then looked around the field of battle and re-assessed his options. One of his minions was shouting “Get her off me!”, the other was shouting “Get it off me!”, and reinforcements were approaching. He chose to cut his losses, dropped the dolly, and ran.
The PCs made as if to follow, or at least watch which was he ran, but were distracted by an unnatural and unnerving sight. Something was heading towards them, travelling down the highway. It was a hundred feet high, with a hemisphere of metal supported by three flexing legs. A tripod.
This was too much for our over-stressed heroes. Farrah and Steve fainted dead away. Cyprys and Hanna were lost to ineffective panic. Bob saw his comrades fall, then turned the corner to see the tripod. He had a moment of clarity and realized what was going on, what had been going on the entire time: this was the end of the world, the Rapture, and here was an angel…
* * *
There was a bit of roleplay that carried through the entire session that I enjoyed: Steve is a smoker. As the situation became more and more stressful, he started chain-smoking. As things wore on, the others started to join him. First Cyprys bummed a draw off him, then later on, Farrah and Cyprys both borrow a cigarette of their own. The apocalypse is not a healthy place.
The damage report:
- Bob: -1 HP, -2 Fatigue, picked up a 10 pt Delusion
- Cyprys: -6 HP, -1 Fatigue, crippled right leg
- Farrah: -10 HP, -3 Fatigue (2 from cold), temporarily crippled left leg, broken right arm (1 month to heal)
- Hanna: no HP damage, -2 Fatigue
- Steve: -3 HP, -1 hunger Fatigue, -3 cold Fatigue, -4 Fatigue from exertion, temporarily crippled left leg
Updated 3/7/2016: Totally forgot the Cool Point! It was awarded to Hanna, for throwing bottles at the guard when everybody else was about to back down and walk away. (And also for the moment when the player discovered the amusing Quirk that her significant other had slipped in on Hanna’s character sheet.)
Also, a detail concerning Farrah’s brutal wrestling match: The funny part was, the two fighters kept escalating the viciousness, but once they ended up in close combat, their every maneuver was successful, but ineffective. Farrah landed at least two successful headbutts doing no effective damage, the bad guy punched her in the face doing no effective damage, and there were a couple of 0 CP grapples traded. Lots of great “to hit” rolls, spoiled by low damage rolls. My rule is, one can get scuffed up and bloodied without taking a full point of damage, so the fight looked great.
I was reminded of the famous fight scene from They Live, actually…