Friday 1 October 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 Clive & Ian Bailey gamebook Where the Shadows Stalk. Brad is the DM, and Rob plays his character, Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones.

Brad: Right, I had a brief play with this book, and it is actually possible to die before you're made a single choice.
Rob: Righto. I always enjoy a challenge.
Brad: A letter has arrived for you, Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones.

My dear friend,
I hardly know where to begin, for I am nearly at my wit's end.

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Best sentence opening ever.

But I must be calm and put down the facts for you to consider. It began with an earthquake. Yes, an earthquake, here in Wales! A subtle rumbling and settling in the earth, as if some monstrous creature stirred. There followed a week in which several disturbing, but apparently unconnected, events occured.

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Why mention them, then?

An old man, noted hereabouts for his eccentric ways, as found wandering the hills above Bryn Coedwig, suffering from severe burns.

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Sounds painful.
Redshirt: Are you talking to that letter, sir?
Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Where did you come from?
Redshirt: mummy's tummy?

On his deathbed he rambled about unnameable things inhabiting the disused mines.

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Diamonds? *rubs hands*

Several people have succumbed to a strange disease: their bodies seem to be eaten up by fungus!

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Is it at least sparkly?

Now a strange unnatural mist has come to cling to the hilltops about Bryn Coedwig. The wind seems to have no effect on it and this morning the postman told me it now threatens to cut off the road to Corris.

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Pussy. Just turn your lights on and have your wipers at full blast.

The villagers are mumbling that we are cursed, but I believe the earthquake has released dark forces. Now, no-one walks abroad after dark.

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: You've checked in other countries as well?

Even I write to you from behind shuttered windows, for I sense some nameless horror which lurks out there in the shadows. Please come to us at once!

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Yeah, because that sounds really appealing.

Help me solve the mystery which haunts these valleys!
I am ever your friend,
Charles Petrie-Heydrich

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Well, sounds like a cheerful holiday, everyone in?
Redshirt: In!
Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Superb, gives me something to offer as a sacrifice. Anyone else?
Chemise-Rouge: In!
Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Awesome. Make that two sacrifices.

Brad: Charles Petrie-Heydrich is a famous scholar and explorer, not a character who scares easily. The urgency of his letter and the shaky signature at its foot disturbs you.

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Hmmm...I know his penchant for masturbation, but usually he would read at the same time, not write....this sets off my Bodes Ill sense.

Brad: Hastily, you pack a bag and, as you leave the house with your compatriots, you grab a stout knobkerrie from the umbrella stand.
Rob: What's a knobkerrie? And can I eat it?
Brad: It's not a word I've ever heard before either. According to the book, it's a type of heavy walking stick. I can only suppose you're thinking of kedgeree.
Rob: Or knob, I guess.

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Sorry fella, I need to borrow your knob.

Brad: A steam express train takes you as far as the town of Corris in North Wales. Here, you alight and cadge a lift in a farmer's cart. Your destination is Bryn Coedwig, an isolated hamlet almost untouched by the twentieth century.
I don't know when this is set, which somewhat undermines the impact of that last sentence. I mean, if it's set in 1901, that just sounds petty.
Rob: "An isolated hamlet almost untouched by the twentieth 1895".
Brad: Now you're thinking Lovecraftian. The road climbs out of Corris up the valley side.
Rob: What? Vertically?
Brad: Below, to your right, the valley is already beginning to fill with shadows. You glance at your watch and note the time: (but not the date) half past five. A short while later, the cart sways to a halt at a crossroads.
Rob: Is Clapton there?
Brad: The farmer turns to you.
Rob: And says "Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side"?

Farmer: I must leave you here, for my way lies straight ahead. That is the Bryn Coedwig.
Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Isn't that the owl in Harry Potter?

Brad: He points to a narrow track that leads over a hill ridge. You thank the farmer for brining you this far, wave goodbye then tramp up the ridge.
Rob: What good does lobbing a vagrant do?
Brad: The track leads you up into a world of windswept rock and coarse grass. You walk over the ridge and come to a sudden halt. An immense fog bank stretches across the valley below, from hilltop to hilltop, it upper reaches stained red by the sunset. Here the way to Bryn Coedwig hugs a narrow ledge and, to your right, the valley side falls precipitously into the darkness.
Boldly, the three of you advance into the fog.
Rob: Where no man has gone before?

Redshirt: There is something curiously unsettling about this fog.
Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: I'd be more unsettled by the tramp that we're tossing into it.

Brad: Redshirt is right. It seems to drag at your clothes and your every movement seems to excite weird pink and blue lights which flicker about your body. Your progress is painfully slow.
Rob: I've never understood that phrase. Who does my slow progress hurt?

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Did we wander into a 21st Century Techno rave?
Chemise-Rouge: Unlikely, Braggart. This place wasn't even touched by the twentieth century. Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Yeah...I guess not. Though it may have touched it and just lied about it. Made sure the village didn't talk, that sort of thing.

Brad: Visibility is no more than an arm's length in any direction; you are obliged to feel for the crunch of gravel that lies in the middle of the road to avoid falling over the precipice.

Redshirt: So...we can't even see our feet?
Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Depends on the length of your leg I guess. Dwarves probably could.

Brad: Your feet feel like lead weights and you begin to sweat. Within a few minutes you all find yourselves gasping for breath, as if you are drowning. A strange pulse begins to quiver in the fog.
Rob: Drowning... in the air tonight?
Brad: It swells around you and fills your skull with an incessant churning beat.

Chemise-Rouge: My God! It's a 21st century rave!

Brad: You cover your ears, but the mad noise only grows in magnitude.

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Fuck you, Paul Oakenfold....whoever you turn out to be!

Brad: Desperately, you try to run, but your feet seem to lose their purchase and you begin to stagger to your right - towards the unseen precipice. You battle to regain control over your bodies, but your mind is dominated by the hellish beat.
Rob: That's Trance for you.
Brad: Time passes. When you awake, you are lying close to the edge of the cliff, bathed in sweat. The pounding is receding; now you realise it was only your own heartbeat, magnified a hundredfold.

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: See, despite the hell we've just endured, I can't help but think that it was a brilliant night. Ketamine's a hell of a drug, isn't it?
Chemise-Rouge: I can't feel my lips.
Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Come here, I'll do it.

Brad: Struggling to your feet, you stumble on and suddenly, emerge from the fog. Ahead, the road winds down into a peaceful valley between tall hedgerows; behind you looms the unnatural fog bank, totally undisturbed by the breeze which fills the valley. The only light comes from a full moon riding high in the sky. Then you realise the moon should not be that high - after all you entered the fog when the sun was still setting. Pulling out your fob watch, you find it has stopped at ten minutes past six and, no matter how hard you try, it will not restart.

Redshirt: Try using your knobkerrie.
Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: We're trapped in time. And stop calling me Kerry.

Brad: Confused, you walk on through the dappled shadows that lie between the hedgerows, surrounded by the murmur and rustle of leaves. Soon your mind begins to play strange tricks.
Rob: Like David Blaine?
Brad: You imagine someone or something is keeping pace with you behind the hedgerow on the left.
Rob: Is it David Blaine?

Redshirt: It's Gollum. He's been following us for three days.
Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: I haven't got your fucking ring! Piss off!
Chemise-Rouge: He escaped the dungeons of Barad-Dûr?
Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Evidently. Lucky for us.
Redshirt: Escaped...or was let loose.

Rob: Aren't the Dungeons of Brad-Uh your Triple H tribute?
Brad: A twig snaps and you stop to listen, but only the wind in the leaves disturbs the silence.
Rob: How does a twig snap? Take a gun into the nearest Homebase?
Brad: I would watch the shit out of that stop-motion movie.
Rob: I'd rather actually mentally abuse a twig to see what it really does. But that's just the kind of guy I am.
Brad: Did you want to invetigate the hedgerow?

Redshirt: If there's a bustle in the hedgerow, don't be alarmed, now.

Rob: Investigate the hedgerow.

Chemise-Rouge: There is no way that this can go wrong.
Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Relax. Standard horror conventions state that I'm likely to encounter nothing, followed by a scary moment involving something innocuous out of context.

Rob: If this stays true to horror roots, there'll be nothing there.
Brad: Taking a firm grip of your knobkerrie, you stride up to the hedge and call out:

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Susan? Is that you?!

Brad: You rake the knob

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Just like Susan used to do. For money.

Brad: kerrie through the foliage and are rewarded by a sudden commotion as a man bursts from the undergrowth!

Redshirt: Gah!
Chemise-Rouge: I need a horror trope! I need a horror trope!
Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Well, I didn't see that coming. Is this the tramp we threw?

Brad: Before you stands not a man, but some ghastly vegetable parody. Oh, man...if this is a carrot again...The things face is contrived from tangled roots and shoots which, even as you watch, mould themselves into a grisly mirror of your own features.
Rob: Like that scene in The Empire Strikes Back?
Brad: Its hair is a thatch of dry grass, its ears crumpled leaves, and black beans swivel in its eye-sockets.
Rob: And this looks like me, you say?
Brad: Tendrils swarm across the body, filling our a woody musculature. A woody jaw drops to reveal a row of thorn teeth and a rank compost breath plays upon your face.
Rob: See, right there. That musculature means it can't look like me. If it'd said "tendrils swarm across the body creating a spare tire that juts out just under its Legend of Zelda T-shirt", then fair enough.

Creature: *hissing*

Brad: The creature crouches and prepares to spring.



When 11-year-old Jason Adrian is sent to Cap Ravenwyng, a place offering a free summer stay to kids with creativity and imagination, he has no idea how it will change his life. For Camp Ravenwyng is built on the borders of a land that is a battleground between the Ravenwyngers - otherwise known as the Magickers - and their ancient enemies, the Dark Hand of Brennard. And the only hope the Magickers have of winning is to recruit talented youngsters like Jason and his fellow campers and teach them to master their magical powers before the Hand attacks...

Thanks to our friends at Turnaround, we've got five copies of The Magicker's Chronicles: Volume One to giveaway! For your chance of winning, send in you name and full postal address to before midday on Friday 8th October. The first five names out of the electronic hat will win a copy each!

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