Friday 27 August 2010

Dickass DM

Remember good, old-fashioned gamebooks? They promised all the fun of a role-playing game, with none of the social interaction - what more could a teenage boy desire? The thing is, that while the gamebook became a great gaming experience in its own right, the only RPG it could possibly have simulated was one being GM'd by Satan himself. 90% of decisions led to certain death, and combat was often fatal.

Satan wasn't available, so Brad will be GMing Rob through an RPG based on the classic Stephen Thraves gamebook Suspects!. Brad is the DM, and Rob plays his character, Hercule Braggart.

Brad: You had originally gone to Innsbruck in Austria to do some skiing but you now find yourself being hurriedly driven to the railway station.

Police Inspector: I am sorry for interrupting your holiday here.

Brad: The Police Inspector tries to prevent himself from skidding on the icy roads.

Police Inspector: But...well...we've heard what a brilliant detective you are. We were wondering if you would help out with this baffling murder case.
Hercule Braggart: My dear sir, “Baffling” is my middle name...
Police Inspector: It happened a couple of hours ago - on the famous Olympic Express. We would be grateful if you would join the train for the rest of its journey to Paris to try and find out who committed the foul deed.

Brad: Ah, the Austrian police... "You solve it. We can't be bothered."

Hercule Braggart: Sounds like a plan, Stan.

Brad: By the time you reach Innsbruck railway station, the inspector has briefly given you all the details of the murder.
Rob: Briefly as in not much detail, or all the detail fast?
Brad: In pants. The victim was Larry Redshirt, the famous film director, and he was pushed from the train some fifty miles south of Innsbruck as it crossed a deep ravine in the Italian Alps.

Hercule Braggart: Pushed? So the evidence is in that ravine? Bollocks, I knew I should have asked more detail before I said yes.

Brad: Apart from the train staff, the only people on board were the rest of the film team: Tom Heydrich, Jacqui Max, Giles Grimace, Iris Cripps, Bob Clank and Nick McSpindle. The inspector hands you a group photograph (click to enlarge) of these six people, telling you that the murderer must be one of them! So, are you tempted by this intriguing case?
Rob: Logic dictates that saying "No" at this point would make the adventure particularly short. So "Yes."
Brad: Check that picture. Iris Cripps looks like a barrel of laughs.
Rob: She looks like she should be in a Roald Dahl book.
Brad: You had better hurry through to the platform because the Olympic Express is about to depart for the next stage of its long journey. A man in a black jacket greets you as you climb aboard one of the elegant maroon carriages.

Pierre: Welcome to the Olympic Express! My name is Pierre, I'm the chief steward. You must be this clever detective that they were trying to get hold of. Oh, this is a terrible business! To think there was a murder on this train just an hour ago - and that the murderer is still on board somewhere! I will of course do everything I can to help you in your investigation. But first, let me show you to your cabin.
Hercule Braggart: Sweet, this is already better than my house, but I need to crack on.
Pierre: Anything you say.

Brad: The train now starts to jerk...
Rob: Wa-hey!
Brad: ...out of Innsbruck station.

Pierre: Where can I take you first? Mr Redshirt's cabin, the door through which he was pushed, or where he was last seen?
Hercule Braggart: The door, please.
Pierre: Of course. Are you a fan of doors in general?
Hercule Braggart: I have their Best Of, probably my favourite track is Love Me Two Times.

Brad: Pierre leads the way along the narrow corridor.

Pierre: Mind how you go. These carriages are very elegant, but very old as well. A bit like Ian McKellen. They rock you about much more than a modern train does. A bit like...nah

Brad: You soon see what the chief steward means, for you suddenly have to grab hold of the brass handrail as the train throws you towards the window.

Pierre: This is it. You have arrived at the fateful door. This is the one through which Mr Redshirt was pushed.
Hercule Braggart: I see.

Brad: As you bend down to examine the door, a bell suddenly rings from the next carriage.

Pierre: Would you excuse me a moment? That bell is from one of the neighbouring cabins. It means that a passenger wants service!

Brad: While he's gone, you test the lock on the door to make sure that it isn't broken. If it is, then maybe the director's fatal tumble wasn't murder at all. Perhaps it was just an accident. But the lock proves perfectly secure. Eager to ask Pierre something about the lock, you decide to go looking for him.
Rob: Okay...
Brad: On the way there, it occurs to you that the murderer might have left some fingerprints on the window.

Hercule Braggart: That's quite logical, that I would think that...I'll check for prints...

Brad: In the struggle, the murderer's hand could have momentarily touched the glass. It's a possibility...

Hercule Braggart: A moment is all I need - just ask my string of ex-girlfriends!

Brad: You put your face right up to the glass and breathe on it.
Rob: Is my character a bit of a perv then?
Brad: Oh, yeah. This is you we're talking about. You're just about to study the condensation that your breath has made when a gloved hand suddenly grabs you from behind.
Rob: True enough.
Brad: The next thing you know, the gloved hand has opened the door and is trying to push you out. It's the murderer! Hopefully. If it isn't...that's just odd.
Rob: “Sorry sir, I was trying to get drinks orders and my hand slipped."
Brad: You desperately hang on, though, and eventually, the murderer gives up. He or she hurries off into the next carriage before you have time to turn round and see who it is.
Rob: Typical.
Brad: It never occured to me as a kid, but that's a really cack-handed way of trying to kill someone. You are just about to go off in search of Pierre again when he reappears in your carriage. See, I would class that as "suspicious".
Rob: Yeah, same here.

Pierre: That's odd!

Brad: Pierre scratches his head.

Pierre: I visited every single cabin in the next carriage but they were all empty. Someone must have rung their cabin bell and immediately crept off somewhere else in the train. I wonder why?

Brad: You know exactly why, however. The person who rang the bell was obviously the murderer...wanting to lure Pierre away in order to check what you were up to. If only you had seen who it was.

Hercule Braggart: They were trying to push me out of the train, you motherfucker! Next person wanting drinks can fucking wait!

Brad: You decide you had better immediately meet all the suspects, asking Pierre where you can find them.

Pierre: They should all be in the dining car now.

Brad: Pierre leads you towards that carriage.

Pierre: Whose table would you like to visit first, sir?

Brad: Giles Grimace site with Tom Heydrich, Iris Cripps with Jacqui Max, and Bob Clank with Nick McSpindle.
Rob: Grimace and Heydrich
Brad: As you approach Giles Grimace and Tom Heydrich's table, you wonder if it was either of them who came up behind you while you were investigating the fatal door. That's really given you issues, hasn't it?
Rob: Yeah, understandably though I feel!
Brad: They both look perfectly innocent, though; Giles Grimace pouring himself a cup of tea and Tom Heydrich spreading a little mustard on his ham sandwich.
Rob: Yeah, mustard of death! And a cup of death!
Brad: After you have introduced yourself to the two men, you ask them how long they have been sitting there. I wonder how subtle that enquiry is supposed to be...

Hercule Braggart: Oh, say Grimace, how do you take that tea? Milk? Two sugars? Attempted Murder? How long have you been sitting here?
Giles Grimace: Well, I'm not certain how relevant that is to the murder inquiry!
Hercule Braggart: All right, all right...Don't get your gloved hand in a bunch across my throat, it was just a question!
Giles Grimace: But, if you must know, I've been here about five minutes, and Tom joined me about two minutes ago. Why do you ask?
Hercule Braggart: Two minutes ago, I was 'enjoying' a view of the mountains usually reserved for the train's wheels! Where are the rest of your lot?

Brad: When you have briefly introduced yourself to them all, you ask Pierre if he could show you to your cabin. As you make yourself comfortable in this lavish compartment, your thoughts go back to Tom Heydrich and Giles Grimace.

Hercule Braggart: Hmmmm....That Heydrich was definitely checking me out...

Brad: You're sure Tom raised an eyebrow when Giles said he had been there for five minutes. Did this mean that Giles was lying? You try to remember what their table looked like - whether it suggested that they had only just sat down.

Hercule Braggart: Maybe, or maybe he was admiring my impeccable six-pack, visible through my shirt.

Brad: Your thoughts are interruped by a faint knock on the cabin door.

Hercule Braggart: Enter...Stranger...

Brad: You assume this to be Pierre, returning to make sure that everything is to your satisfaction.

Hercule Braggart: Enter...Presumably Pierre...

Brad: The door remains closed, however, and so you call out again, rather louder this time.

Hercule Braggart: I said come in, cuntrag!

Brad: But still no-one enters!

Hercule Braggart: Ah, Noone, my trusty sidekick!

Brad: Wondering if Pierre is slightly deaf, you stand up and open the door yourself. You wander out into the corridor peering left and right. There is not a soul in sight.

Hercule Braggart: Oh that's right, I invented Noone to stop myself going stir crazy in Korea.

Brad: As you turn your head to the left again, however, a bullet hisses past your cheek from behind you.
Rob: I thought bullets got fired, not hissed. Wait, from behind me? So inside my room?
Brad: Uh...don't think so...that makes less sense than the rest of these books. That knock had obviously come from the lure you into their trap!
Rob: Jesus, this murderer's thorough... I guess I've wandered into the corridor
Brad: How long you been on this train now?
Rob: About half an hour, I think, if that.
Brad: And someone's tried to kill you twice. This is worse than flying with you.
Rob: How would you know?
Brad: That time we flew to New York together? About nine years ago?
Rob: Oh right, yeah. I must remember to chase up my luggage...
Brad: Some while later, you notice that the train is slowing down.
Rob: Probably due to a high rate of attempted murders per hour!
Brad: Looking out of your cabin window, you see that it is because you are arriving at a station. You decide to keep watching at your window, just to make sure that none of the suspects furtively leaves the train during its stop.

Hercule Braggart: Oh, thank fuck. It'll be significantly harder to find free time to kill me there, meaning I can expect the number of attempted murders to drop to one every three hours.

Brad: Fortunately, although it's beginning to get dark, outside now, the thick snow everywhere means that it is still easy to see. Suddenly, one of the suspects does step from the train: Giles Grimace!

Hercule Braggart: That tea-drinking motherfucker!

Brad: You're just about to run down the corridor after him, when you notice all the other suspects stepping down onto the platform as well. They're obviously just stretching their legs.

Rob: Or their murder...
Brad: You intend to keep a close eye on them, though, just in case. The trouble is they're all moving to different parts of the platform.

Hercule Braggart: I'll show them, I've got four prosthetic eyes...Fuck. No, I haven't.

Brad: Jacqui Max is accompanying Giles Grimace to the left end, Bob Clank and Nick McSpindle are strolling to the right end, and Iris Cripps and Tom Heydrich have just sat down on a bench in the very middle of the platform. They got off the train to "stretch their legs"...then sat down.

Hercule Braggart: They're pairing off, interesting...Maybe they're dogging...

Brad: Which pair should you watch the most closely?
Rob: Cripps and Heydrich, totally.
Brad: What's your reasoning?
Rob: That thingy about sitting down, and all that noise.
Brad: As you fix your eyes on the bench where Iris and Tom are sitting, you notice Iris shiver.

Hercule Braggart: Maybe she's a homophobe and doesn't approve of mine and Tom's mutual!

Brad: Is this because Tom has just announced to her that he's worked out that it was she who pushed the director off the train? Is it because he's trying to blackmail her? But then you notice Tom shiver as well.
Rob: Is it minus 5 degrees?
Brad: There is snow on the ground. Of course, they're both shivering because of the inadequate way they are dressed!

Hercule Braggart: They will insist on wearing bondage gear.

Brad: Iris has only a thin jacket over her pullover and Tom doesn't have a jacket at all! Retards! It's the fucking alps! They'd be freezing on board the train!

Hercule Braggart: Oh, I brought my school rugger kit - I'll be fine.

Brad: The research on this book is minimal!
Rob: Can't say I'm totally shocked, dude.
Brad: I guess I should have mentioned that Stephen Thraves was the Roger Corman of gamebooks.
Rob: Probably.
Brad: Continuing to watch them converse on the platform bench, you wonder why neither of them thought to pack a coat before leaving the train. Was it because they had something else on their minds?

Hercule Braggart: Hmmm....Wonderwonderwonder...

Brad: Killing you, maybe?

Hercule Braggart: Better movie crews than them have tried.

Brad: But at least the light way they're dressed makes you confident that neither of them are intending to make a run for it. If that was the case, then they surely would have brought their coats. And, sure enough, as a whistle announces the train's imminent departure, they both step back on again. And so do all the other suspects.
Rob: Hmmm, I wonder if perhaps the book has led me on a Red Herring in that last exchange.
Brad: The express has travelled only a few miles from the station when you are suddenly alerted by a piercing scream! It seems to be coming from the end of your corridor. Fearing that the murderer is trying to push a second person off the train (perhaps someone who witnessed the first incident), you jump to the door.
Rob: I point my ears in the direction of the scream! That way I can get them pierced cheap!
Brad: But when you hurry out into the corridor you find that it is completely empty. Then the "scream" occurs again - it's just the train's whistle. A few seconds later, you realise the reason for it. The express is now entering a long tunnel.
Rob: Physx pwned!
Brad: Feeling rather shaken, you decide you had better rest for a few minutes in your cabin.
Rob: I ring the bell to summon Pierre.



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