Intro: The Plant is a solo role-playing experience that I have adapted into a short story for your enjoyment. I did this run completely blind with no knowledge of what could occur or any of the game’s contents, so be sure to keep that in mind while reading. Also, no edits (outside of minor spelling, grammar, and tense changes) were made to what I wrote down. This will also act as a review/endorsement of the system, as well as other Bully Pulpit Games. Personally, I highly recommend Fiasco if you have a few friends around, it is a great game! That cost some money, but they have several free games, including this one (an award winner, by the way), on their website. As for what The Plant is, the story setup is this:
Your daughter is in the plant. You are going to find her.
Note: Sorry in advance for the general lack of pictures
The Plant had always loomed in the distance ever since it was built in our town, many years ago. It was a place many of us avoided, an eye-sore that had long since been abandoned. However, today I stood before the monstrosity, leaves rustling in the brisk Autumn air, with one goal in mind: I had to find my daughter. She was in The Plant, of this I was certain, but why? An uneasiness washed over me as I made my approach to the cold steel doors that marked the entrance to The Plant.
Upon closer inspection, I should not have been so surprised. The doors had clearly been chained and locked with a now, long-rusted, chain. Still, it held and I needed to find a new way into The Plant. After some searching I stumbled on to an improperly secured crawlspace and made my way inside.
Here it was horribly claustrophobic, the access corridor filled with animal droppings and asbestos. Amid the duct-work was gaping, ragged holes where fans, bag houses, dust collectors and changeover dampers were once affixed, now presenting a deadly hazard to the unwary.
The smell of the crisp pine air mixed with the foul smell of the crawlspace instilled in me a quiet rage. My daughter had been through this? Whether she came here of her own accord, or was taken, I found myself becoming angrier and angrier. She must be found, she must be safe. Even all of this would not deter me.
Suddenly, I found myself falling as the corridor finally gave way to my weight. I fell only a short distance, though it left my body covered in various scrapes and bruises, I was left in rather fair shape. I took a moment to collect myself as I took in my surroundings.
This seemed to be the old scrap room. Dirty bins that once held copper scraps are overturned and broken. A scrap baler press large enough to crush an automobile sits idle, the press-plates torn off, the breakdown mill that feeds it uprooted and in pieces. The mill’s battered octagonal red hopper is spectacularly covered in graffiti. Shattered beer bottles and ancient condoms litter the floor.
The red hopper immediately captured my attention. Caught in its maw was my daughter’s favorite stuffed animal, “Mr. Hoppy” who was a battered bunny rabbit given to her by her late mother. I thought I had collected myself but after seeing this I truly lost it.
I let out a series of frustrated screams as I kicked the, as I saw it, blood red hopper. “She’s ok!” I picked up her stuffed toy and clutched it to my chest, “I need to calm down” I said to myself. “She’s safe, I will find her…” I whispered these words of reassurance as I sought a way to continue. Given that she didn’t respond to my presence and yelling, what else was I to do? However, I was now hopelessly lost and knew that I would be more-or-less wandering The Plant aimlessly.
I soon discovered that there was only one way out of this dreadful place, and that was behind a grimy door at the other end of the room. Despite the clear activity in this particular area the single exit surprised me, it had been sealed off by various debris clearly caused by my eventful emergence in the room. I focused my bitter emotions and hauled away the abundant duct work that had amassed here after the collapse.
Finally, I had reached the door and could now open it! Behind I was greeted only with a piercing darkness and a staircase that descended ever deeper into this heartless beast. Slowly, testing each step, I made my way down.
After what seemed like hours, though I’m sure it was only a few minutes at the most, I finally reached the bottom. Another door lay before me, a small ray of light peaked in from a crack in the wall beside me. It was just enough for me to make out a faded plaque, “Break Room” is what it read. With seemingly no other way for me to go, I took a deep breath and stepped inside.
Faded safety and health posters vie for space with creeping mold and crudely scrawled graffiti on the walls. A bank of shattered windows look out over a gray courtyard far below. Ornamental brickwork serves as a ladder of sorts, making this room easy to get to. It’s obviously been a popular shooting gallery – needles and syringes form a toxic constellation across the cracked linoleum floor.
I used to spend a lot of time here. I used to eat lunch here every day. The courtyard used to have a tree in it, growing in an enormous planter. People would gather there to smoke, and I’d watch them.
I ate alone after people found out about what happened.
My wife was a wonderful woman. She had a smile that could light up the whole room. Her laugh was infectious and could break even the most straight-faced of men. Our crowning moment was when our daughter, Lucy, had been born. We were so happy. I was so lucky to have met her, but she was unlucky to have met me.
Shortly after Lucy’s birth we got into a terrible car accident. Maybe I had too much to drink, either way, I can’t clearly remember. However, everyone around here just assumed things all the same. Maybe out of fear, pity, or some strange form of respect, my friends all left me one-by-one until I was alone.
And yet I was always watching. Scanning the yellow, exhausted faces huddled around that miserable tree. Every day, I’d look, knowing eventually that I would catch a glimpse again. Some ounce of happiness, someone who could absolve me of my sin, a friendly ear. Anything. Of course I still had my daughter, who I loved dearly, but when I was away, it was like all of me had died a thousand times over. Surely, this was my cross to bear.
I broke down in this moment. The memories flooding back to me mixed to form an intense, burning guilt. I had lost my greatest love, and perhaps could lose my next. My only reason for living. I was afraid and frustrated with myself because I could not find the strength to carry on in this moment. I simply collapsed to the floor and wept.
Minutes passed before I was able to once again regain my resolve. I picked myself off the needle-laden floor and continued. This hollow monster had taken so much, I could not allow it to consume Lucy as well. I swore then that I would never look back after today, that this place would lose its power over me. I just needed to find Lucy.
I continued onward through the next door, more prepared to face any horrors of the past. With an eerie creak I was greeted by another familiar site. “This is the control room.” Was the only thought that entered my mind. Banks of electrical equipment here have been forced open and gutted, their contents sold for scrap. At one end is an overturned metal desk, its contents now covering the floor in a moldy paper pulp. A mummified rat peeks out of a waxed paper cup. I remember it in better times…
A sudden image of the past is conjured. It is many years ago. The plant is spotlessly clean, brilliantly lit, and humming with both power and purpose. Here in the control room, solid-looking electrical cabinets line the walls, and banks of instruments monitor the furnace, upcasting, and coiling workspace machinery. At one end is a battered metal desk with a telephone and paperwork on it. In its own way, it is weirdly cheerful and realer than real. I remember it like it was yesterday. And then it all fell apart around me.
The pristine image lay shattered, a crumbling relic of the past. Anything that had once been good here, was completely lost to the ever relentless passage of time. There was no way to go back to the way things were, only to continue toiling my life away, a gnawing emptiness ever-present.
She’s been here, that much is obvious. I can feel her nearby and it allowed me to relax for a moment. What happened before – that nonsense in the break room – couldn’t have happened, right? I’ve always had a dramatic disposition and tend to spin out tales for myself. Yes, I imagined the whole thing. I must have.
For a moment I had become almost… blissful. She was close, and I could feel it. In my stupor, I wandered ever downward as if guided by Lucy herself. When I had finally snapped out of it, I found myself reminded of my surroundings. The crumbling innards of The Plant, a distant memory of times long past.
I realized that I had entered the spin-block room. A pair of ominous-looking round cages, once yellow but now consumed with rust, hang from the ceiling, far enough off the floor that vandals could not reach them. The hydraulic machinery to raise and lower the spin-block cages has been removed, leaving only shadowy impressions on the walls, stranding the cages forever suspended in time.
Looking up at the cages I was caught off guard as I managed just a glimpse of Lucy through the rusted-iron bars. She moved across the viewing platform managers would often use to asses the workers from. Occasionally, they would call out to someone to come and see them. Other times, they would bark orders.
While this should have been a moment of happiness, I found myself crying instead. A memory. I had been called up to that very place, many years ago. As if to pour salt into an open wound; they fired me. The Plant was nothing more than a representation of Hell on Earth for me. A monstrosity that consumed every facet of my once happy life, leaving it tarnished and cold.
It was then that a thought crept into my mind, “What if this unyielding beast wished to take from me my last remaining beacon of hope? After all, it very well could. Its jaws are quick to snap shut on anything it can. It is a ravenous and hungry beast, The Plant, and it has beckoned to me once more to provide it with nourishment.”
I found myself frozen, unable to continue once again. This creature haunted me, looming in the distance all this time. I should have known it would never release me from its grasp. I was like a plaything, or more aptly, like the mouse being toyed with by a cat. I had been foolish.
That’s right, I had to move forward. My daughter is waiting, and I must save her. She needs my protection. Without it, surely The Plant will have its way with her as well. Yes, I must move forward.
Eventually I found myself in the furnace room, as if lead to the heart of this terrible monster. The massive annealing furnace squats on an iron trestle, with long-frozen hydraulic lifts poised like fat legs on either side. The walls are studded with support machinery – a huge oil pump, a 200 kilo-watt inductor with its guts ripped out, and a rusting stand for cooling water three stories tall. Someone has dragged a shopping cart and a rotten canvas tarp in here.
The room is filled with the sharp metallic tang of liquefied copper and the air is astonishingly hot. Just then, the foreman came in and told me that I was going to be a father! My wife had just been admitted to the hospital. He hurried me out the doors and wished us both well. I couldn’t believe it, after all this time, I was going to be a father!
I was almost overcome with emotions on that day. As you know, that was the happiest day of my-our, lives. The day Lucy was brought into the world. She had the same bright smile as her mother, my deep blue eyes, and she irradiated beauty from every pore. I had never realized the joy other fathers must have felt before this moment, it was like witnessing a miracle first-hand. Overwhelming joy, enough to make time almost freeze in place. It was a moment that I could have lived in forever.
Unfortunately, time never does stop. It always marches onward. My current situation was a reminder of that as I was jolted back to reality. The dirty stained floor, needles hopelessly strewn in all directions, the rusting of metal, and the crumbling infrastructure was a sharp contrast to that day. The fires of that passionate moment had long died out, much like the furnace here.
There was just one door left to go through. My final destination, Lucy would be waiting beyond this door. It was a massive steel door, much like the ones you’d see in a hanger. I had to push with all my might, but it opened with a mighty roar, it was just enough for me to squeeze through.
Here before me was the rolling mill hall. It stretched out a great distance in both directions; the dormant mill itself dominating one wall. Aluminum raceways and trays that once caught and directed the mill’s output have been smashed and bent in an orgy of destruction. Here and there a piece of dirty copper tubing hints at a productive past.
Oh, yes, there she is. After all my crawling and struggling, After all my nightmares and rages, I’d imagined her alone and helpless but she’s neither. My paternal rescue suddenly takes on a ridiculous air, a patina of age and foolishness.
She doesn’t need me…
She doesn’t even want me.
Instructions for the game can be downloaded here. My setup is 7 cards numbered: 1,2,5,6,8,9, and 10. The detail cards I wrote up are:
- Sound of a Record Player
- Taste of Chemicals
- Feeling of joy
- Torn photo (of daughter)
- Rusted wrench
- Memory of daughter (age 3)
- Moldy Science Book
- Ripped Sweater
- Smell of crisp pine air
- Just a glimpse… (of daughter)
This might not mean much on its own but that was the setup for this play of The Plant. Of course, if you played, you would likely use differing combinations of things so there is a fair amount of variety here. Provided below is my final map with an explanation of the route I took through The Plant.
Starting at the top left corner, is where I began the game. As you can see, I’ve placed a card off to the side of it which represents a detail I had to include form the above detail list. Mind you, it was random. This so happened to be, “Smell of crisp pine air.” It was a rough start.
The five card says that I started the game in a crawlspace, and that the detail made me angry. Since there are only two stats, fear and anger, I made sure that when one increased that it was obvious within the text.
Moving rightward now, I continued on that path until the end of the row, events transpiring as they do in the story. The cards marked, “Down” that lack numbers or letters, are cases where I just went deeper into The Plant and where I added extra details.
From the top right corner, I move directly down to the 8 card. Then proceed to head back to the left side. Finally, once I reach the 9 card I moved down to 1, then the 10 card. Normally the layout is not required to be so neat, I simply did this due to the fact that I was playing this on my bed.
Lastly, you’ll notice the poker chip and letters on the cards. The letters help dictate what event options I’m given and the poker chip represented my character as he moved through The Plant, hence why it is on the final space in the photo.
As I moved through the plant I would copy the passages from the book into my story, altering them as necessary (I used, “I/me” vs, “You/Your” and a few other things). I would also prune redundancy and alter how each paragraph from the book worked with everything in concert. All of the changes here were very minor and make up only a portion of the story.
The rest is all me, and the main point of the game. I would expand the story and write everything down as I went. Mind you, I played this blind and had no idea what kind of story this would be at the start. You may notice that the opening paragraphs are the weakest, but I wanted the story and example here to accurately reflect a game.
By the end of the game my tracker looked like this:
[Internal tracking – Fear: 3 & Anger: 3]
These values dictate how the story concludes. Normally, these aren’t equal but since they were, I was able to choose the ending I wanted. Went with the one that fit the story the best, though they were both pretty solid. I hope you enjoyed!
That’s how The Plant plays and an example of what kind of story you end up with. While this isn’t exactly a solo role-playing experience, and more of a short story creator, it was a fun first ever experience. Let me know if you plan on giving this a go as well! I have something related to this in the works (with approval from the game’s creator), so please keep an eye out for that. If you’d like to support me in the meantime, please click my donation button below. And finally, thank you so much for reading!