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Webcomic / A Beginner's Guide to the End of the Universe

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A Beginner's Guide to the End of the Universe is a completed Interactive Comic by Crippledvulture, originally created as a MSPA Forum Adventure.

The protagonist, Everyman, wakes up in a typical everyman bedroom one day, only to find out that he is trapped in an apartment complex hovering in the middle of endless white void. With the help of a growing entourage of allies and the ability to modify the world using raw power of CREATIVITY, he sets out to find out the true, mysterious nature of this place—and of himself.

The comic mimics Role-Playing Game mechanics, giving the protagonist a number of numerical stats which are an important element throughout the adventure.

It can be read here. (The original two forum threads are here and here.)

An archive of the comic can be found here. It should be noted that this archive was, coincidentally, made just before an issue with the author's Photobucket accountnote  had rendered much of the original webcomic lost to the depths of the Internet. Hurray for archiving!

Has a sequel, Chairman Jack: Emerge.

A beginner's guide to the tropes of the comic:

  • Abnormal Ammo: The upgraded AUTOFLINTLOCK can shoot anything that fits even halfway into one of its barrels.
  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: The Everysword can cut through anything by transforming itself into whichever type of blade is most suited to cutting its current target.
  • Amnesiac God: The Everyman, basically. He's the embodiment of Humanity itself, but creating the story's pocket universe cost him his memory.
  • Apocalypse How: Of the Universal/Physical Annihilation kind. The heat death of the universe has occurred, and all matter and energy has collapsed into a singularity, the Dark Star, except for the railroad and roomlike pocket dimensions the Everyman created.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: The void beasts are giant versions of mundane animals.
  • Bat Out of Hell: One of the void beasts that the Everyman had to fight was a massive void bat with the wingspan of a hang glider that used high-pitched screeches to disorient its foes.
  • Beneath the Earth: After reaching the Dark Star, the Everyman enters a vast system of lightless caverns that wind on for miles. He encounters nothing there besides a single Giant Spider and, eventually, the Singularity's hidden lair.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies:
    • Some of the early void beasts that the Everyman fights are a giant void fly and a large void cockroach, each about the same size as he is. They are fairly weak foes, on the whole — the fly on briefly threatens him due to his inexperience and lack of good gear, while the cockroach is swiftly beheaded before being able to inflict any damage.
    • Later, the Everyman is attacked by a humongous void wasp several times larger than the tank he's hiding in at the time, which proves a much more dangerous opponent.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Everyman is dead and Chairman Jack is trapped in a time dilation field. But the cult has been vanquished, the Singularity's attempts to destroy what's left of the universe has been stopped, and the few people who remain have a new chance at life. The Everyman's body scatters over the Black Star, seeding it with life and creating a new world.
  • Bizarrchitecture: The building complexes that the Everyman and his allies explore are less so actual buildings and more convoluted series of various types of rooms and passages that only tangentially relate to their immediate neighbors, all hanging in the infinite void. In his early explorations, for instance, the Everyman begins in a hallway connecting a number of apartments, finds a door leading into a palatial mansion, passes through its swimming pool to find a long stone tunnel with a single pantry at its far end, goes down a hatch into another tunnel further down, and follows the train tracks there to another agglomeration of office buildings and seaside docks. This is eventually explained as being a result of the story taking place in a Pocket Dimension created by the Everyman after the universe's heat death; the rooms were created as a manifestation of jumbled and disconnected memories of human civilization.
  • Blank Book: All the books in the mansion library are blank, with only two having images and text — and even then, only on the pages on which they happen to be open to when found.
  • Bond One-Liner: Subverted and Invoked. The Everyman tries to think of one during the first few combats, but fails.
  • Canis Major: While traveling along the train tracks, Snuffy and Ryan are attacked by a void wolf around twice the height of an elephant.
  • Clockwork Creature: The creatures spawned by the lightbulb tree are humanoids and horses made out gears and springs.
  • Cool Airship: The V.S. Snuffy the Pooch is a giant brick supernaturally altered so that if floats in the air, hollowed out and fitted with jet engines and a cannon. It is later upgraded with lead walls instead of masonry, a booster engine and a radar system.
  • Creative Sterility: The SINGULARITY seeks to destroy rather than create, and as such can only make dark mirrors of ideas the Everyman has already had. It only starts making monsters after Snuffy was created, for instance, and likewise the lightbulb tree only comes along after the first miscellanopod trees are grown, and the tetrahedron-headed individual and Ryan are made in response to Mary's creation.
  • Cyborg: Snuffy and Chairman Jack gradually become more and more extensively cyborgs as their COMPLEXITY increases and the Everyman fuses them with gears and mechanical components.
  • Day Hurts Dark-Adjusted Eyes: Since the giant wolf spider that the Everyman encounters in the caverns is used to living in a lightless environment, it's intimidated by the light of the firefly lance and left stunned and helpless in the bright light of the outside world.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The comic is primarily done in grayscale; Snuffy stands out for being the only entity depicted in color.
  • Dreaming the Truth: The Everyman's dreams serve as cryptic hints of his true nature and of the fate of the universe.
  • Disk-One Final Boss: The Personified Singularity serves the main foe of the adventure's midpoint, allowing the Everyman to remember his true nature before returning to the upper world.
  • Elite Mook: The clockwork knight is this to the clockwork halberdiers; the latter are clumsy, weak and easily dispatched, while the knight is a much swifter and more formidable foe.
  • The End: Done rather cleverly by using the comic title, with "The End" being emphasized over the rest.
  • The Everyman: The main character is literally called that. And later turns out to be literally this: basically, an anthropomorphic personification of humanity as a whole.
  • Feathered Fiend: Birds are the most common void beasts by a comfortable margin. One of the first beasts encountered is a colossal pigeon, and the Everyman and Snuffy are later attacked by a large flock of mixed bird species.
  • Flying Seafood Special: When battling the Followers of the Icosahedron in the climax, their forces include a whale-sized void shark that swims in midair.
  • Foul Waterfowl: When battling the flock of void birds, the Everyman's decision to taunt them in order to lure them towards himself ultimately succeeds in getting some of the more innately aggressive ones to break off and pursue him when they can no longer tamp down their predatory instincts, at the cost of drawing the attention of the more dangerous specimens. The ones thus depicted are a falcon, a hawk, an eagle, an owl... and a Canadian goose.
  • Fourth-Wall Observer: The Everyman, sort of. He's not aware that he's in a webcomic, but he's the only man aware of the game mechanics behind the RPG Mechanics 'Verse. All other characters get confused whenever he brings them up.
    You tell him you increased your AGILITY, which increased your total HIT POINTS.
    "You know what? Forget I asked."
  • Full-Conversion Cyborg: After her third upgrade, Snuffy becomes almost entirely mechanical. She gains a pair of robotic arms, a motor to move them with, neural upgrades to make her more intelligent, and a large rotary gun replacing most of her back. By the end of it, she's described as more machine than dog and as being almost entirely made of metal.
  • Future Imperfect: Hundreds or thousands of years in the future, the entire first part of the adventure has become The Time of Myths. Mary and Ryan are the revered founders of the human race, while the Everyman is remembered as a cruel and fickle god who was tricked into heading to the Dark Star by them, and was never seen again.
  • Giant Enemy Crab: While exploring a pier jutting out into the void, the Everyman and Mary are attacked by a large void spider crab about twice their height.
  • Giant Flyer: The flying void beasts include some impressively large specimens, such as a bat the size of a hang glider, a pigeon the height of an elephant, and a wasp several times larger than a tank. The members of the flock that attacks the Everyman and Snuffy in the courtyard are smaller, but most are still easily as large as or larger than the Everyman — notably, while the ones based on large birds such as condors and albatrosses aren't larger than their real-life counterparts, the ones based on small perching birds are colossal.
  • Giant Spider: While exploring the caves on the Dark Star, the Everyman is ambushed by a giant wolf spider as large as he is. Notably, unlike the void beasts, it flees instead of fighting him and does not turn into void dust on death.
  • GIS Syndrome: Photographs are used for everything except for stick figure people and interface elements.
  • Grows on Trees:
    • The miscellanopod trees produce pods that split open when ripe to reveal random artifacts. After the Everyman returns from the Dark Star, it's shown that the future society relies on them to produce the majority of the goods they use.
    • The clockwork tree grows giant lightbulbs that, when disturbed, fall, burst and create clockwork enemies.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Snuffy saving Ryan from a giant wolf.
  • Hit Points: The Everyman has health points that are diminished by attacks and replenished by using up nutrition. Notably, this does not apply to any other human in the setting, who are hurt are heal like normal.
  • Horse of a Different Color: The Everyman's first action after befriending the giant sparrow he names Chairman Jack is to equip a shield and lance, mount on his back, and take to the skies to battle the void birds.
  • Hyperactive Metabolism: The Everyman can recover Hit Points and remove TOXICITY by spending NUTRITION. Food's healing power is dependent on how healthy it is. Potato Chips are so unhealthy they actually hurt him.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: Items stored in the Everyman's inventory cease to physically occupy space, and don't burden him down despite often being quite heavy when taken out.
  • I Call It "Vera": Each piece of equipment has a specific fancy name, but the electric sword BLAZING HOT BETTY is the straightest example.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: After the Everyman starts dying, he occasionally suffers from bouts of coughing, each one accompanied by a reduction in hit points.
  • Item Crafting: The Everyman can use his CREATIVITY powers to create objects from nothingness and to modify, fuse and enhance preexisting ones. Over the course of the comic, this becomes the primary way in which he arms and equips himself, and results in the creation of some fairly elaborate gear.
  • It's Raining Men: With the Everyman in his floating armor as the parachute, no less.
  • Jet Pack: After defeating the Singularity, the Everyman creates a jetpack with wing-mounted rockets to fly back out of the room it was in. He later incorporates it into Chairman Jack to give him rocket-propelled flight.
  • Lawful Stupid: The Followers of the Icosahedron, who wish for the world (well, what little there is) to be destroyed completely by the Singularity because the natural laws of nature require so to pave the way for a new universe.
  • Light Is Not Good: The appearance of void beasts is heralded by the room brightening.
  • Lightning Gun: When the Everyman battles the priests of the Icosahedron in the climax, one of them arms itself with a gun that shoots electric bolts. The Everyman turns this against him by transforming his helmet into silver, which attracts the lightning bolts to itself and electrocutes him.
  • Living Statue: Played very straight with Chairman Jack who, being a cyborg, ran out of power and remains an immobile statue until charged up again.
  • Mana Meter: The Creativity stat is more or less the equivalent of mana in RPGs. The more the Everyman has left, the more he can modify the world around him.
  • Many Spirits Inside of One: The Everyman is the personification of the human race, a gestalt formed from the collective souls of humanity.
  • Mecha-Mooks: The clockwork halberdiers and clockwork knight that Snuffy and the Everyman face, which sprung from the light bulb-like fruits of a tree that grew from one of the Dark Star's solids.
  • Mercury's Wings: The Everyman accidentally creates a winged helmet when attempting to separate a visored helmet and a floating cuirass he had earlier fused into a single item. The helmet proves fairly underwhelming — it's not strong enough to let him fly but also obscures his vision, and eventually it's simply ditched.
  • Metafictional Title: A Beginner's Guide to the End of the Universe is the title of a chronicle written by Arek after the end and featured in the epilogue.
  • Metal Muncher: After her third upgrading, Snuffy gains the ability to eat metallic objects and automatically transform them into ammunition for the gun integrated into her body. Chairman Jack is later given the same ability.
  • Mirror Boss: The three cultists that the Everyman faces at the end share his creation ability.
  • Mook–Face Turn: Chairman Jack, originally just an ordinary enemy giant sparrow before he was imbued with COMPLEXITY to become more than a mindless monster.
  • Mook Maker: The clockwork tree is entirely passive in its own right, and serves only as a way to continuously create clockwork enemies to attack the Everyman.
  • Mooks: Many of the hostile creatures, especially the void beasts and the clockwork halberdiers, are rather weak and quickly cease to pose a meaningful threat the Everyman and his allies except in numbers. In battle, they usually fall quickly and often and mostly serve to distract him or to provide backup for stronger creatures.
  • Mordor: The surface of the Black Star: a bleak place with nothing but mountains that literally keep growing out of nowhere. Until the ending.
  • More Dakka: Snuffy gains a built-in minigun once she's upgraded to COMPLEXITY 3.
  • Natural End of Time: The setting turns out to be this, set after heat death where only the Pocket Dimension is left.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Snuffy the Pooch and the sparrow Chairman Jack serve as the Everyman's primary companions for much of his adventure.
  • Not Quite Flight: The various armors the Everyman creates weaken the effects of gravity on him. He propels himself by manifesting nearby bursts of air.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: The personified Singularity wants to bring about the final end of the Universe. Later, the followers of the Icosahedron want to achieve the same goal.
  • Ontological Mystery: The beginning has the Everyman alone in a mysterious location with no memory of how he got there.
  • Organ Drops: Of a sort. Unlike void beasts, which turn into piles of void dust on death, the clockwork enemies collapse into their component gears and mechanisms, which serve as the primary loot the Everyman gains by killing them.
  • Post-Apocalyptic Dog: The first companion that the Everyman creates is Snuffy the Pooch, a purple dog, who remains his primary companion for the first part of the story as they explore the ragged remnants of the universe.
  • The Power of Creation: Spending CREATIVITY points allows the Everyman to create objects out of thin air. Near the end he regains his full abilities, giving him infinite CREATIVITY. The high priests of the cult of the Icosahedron can do so as well, thanks to having drunk from the fountain underground.
  • Present Tense Narrative: As is frequent in Interactive Comics, each action is described in the second person present tense.
  • Psychic Link: The Everyman has this with his pets, which becomes more complex and useful as his RAPPORT with them becomes stronger. Initially he's just able to sense vaguely when they are in danger, but later this changes into full-blown telepathy.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Ryan the office worker, who is basically a normal, confused guy, rather upset to be Mind Controlled into wanting to kill the Everyman.
  • Reality Warper: CREATIVITY allows the Everyman to create objects out of nothingness and freely modify existing objects in any way he wishes.
  • Robot Dog: Snuffy, after the Everyman upgrades her with arms and a gun from defeated mechanical enemies.
  • Rousing Speech: Here. and here
  • RPG Mechanics 'Verse: A not very complicated system of numerical stats governs how the Everyman heals and is hurt, how his Creativity is used up and replenished, and the nature of his physical attributes. This does not apply to any other human in the setting.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Hinted at about the Chinese food... but then you eat it and you do get sick... but nothing sinister happens.
  • Second-Person Narration: Another standard for Interactive Comics, each action is described as the reader doing something.
  • Shout-Out: Chairman Jack is a sparrow.
  • Sinister Geometry: Sinister-looking polyhedrons pop up periodically, invariably bringing trouble. For example, the Stone Cube sprouts into a Mook Maker tree, while the Stone Tetrahedron transforms into a troublesome Enigmatic Minion. By the time a Stone Dodecahedron pops up, the protagonist has caught on and lasers it into oblivion before it can do something nasty. Over the course of the story the Everyman fights all five platonic solids and a sphere.
  • Spider Tank: While attacking the base of the Followers of the Icosahedron, the Everyman discovers that the tank that he had created earlier in the comic has come into their possession and augmented with a set of jointed legs.
  • Splash of Color: Snuffy the Pooch, who is purple in a grayscale world.
  • Stick-Figure Comic: All people look like stick figures composed of featureless black rectangles and circles.
  • Swiss-Army Weapon: The EVERYSWORD is by default just a hilt, but in combat manifests whatever blade is most suited to the blow it's parrying or foe it's striking.
    It almost seems to have a mind of its own, transforming into whatever sword is appropriate for the situation.
  • Sword Beam: When fully charged, the Blazing Hot Betty can shoot laser beams by focusing its stored energy into a single target point.
  • Talking Animal: Well, Snuffy and Chairman Jack aren't talking (just communicating telepathically), but are as intelligent as any other Talking Animal.
  • Tank Goodness: An old tank found by the Everyman and, of course, repurposed to serve him. Upgraded, it can be folded into a small briefcase and has a supertelescope. Later on, villains upgrade it to a Spider Tank.
  • Theme Naming: Everyone in the future have four-letter names, perhaps because their ancestors, Mary and Ryan, happened to be this way.
  • Those Magnificent Flying Machines: The Commonwealth's air fleet consists of hot air balloons and armed zeppelins, while the Followers of the Icosahedron use a mix of these, war planes — some resembling jet liners with guns and some bricks with wings and propellers — and flying monsters. The Everyman later upgrades one of the Commonwealth's zeppelins by fusing it with a muscle car, which results in the airship gaining a large external engine on its envelope and becoming able to zip around at very high speeds.
  • Time Dilation:
    • The Everyman spends just a few days flying to and exploring the Black Star, but hundreds or thousands of years pass in the rest of the... um... universe.
    • Near the end, Chairman Jack is caught in a time-dilatation bubble.
  • Trauma Inn: Catching a good nap restores 1 hit point.
  • True Art Is Incomprehensible: In-universe, the "works of art" created by the Everyman are bizarre abstract pieces.
  • Weapons Kitchen Sink: The army of the future people is armed with all sorts of random weapons of all kinds. Justified in that they get all their stuff from the miscellanopod trees, which grant them entirely random items.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: After the trip to the Black Star, the Everyman is slowly dying from all the radiation he's absorbed.
  • You Wake Up in a Room: The story starts with the Everyman waking up in a room, alone, within a complex of increasingly more lavish rooms, with no memory of how he got there or what "there" is, and most of the first half of the story is spent answering these questions.