Friday 15 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: A loathsome thing, like a land jelly-fish, comes to rest some fifteen feet in front of you. Six powerful tentacles sprout from the base of a squat funnel-shaped body.
Numerous black eyes, spaced around the rim of the body, regard you. Then, without a sound, the creature rears up on its tentacles and a strange red aura begins to enshroud the monstrosity. You feel great pulses of energy washing over your body and a terrible buzzing noise begins to fill your head.
Rob: Does this thing resemble a jellyfish closely then?
Brad: Yes. Thats...what I said. The creature is bombarding you with some kind of mind-flail. Fortunately, you manage to resist its effects!
Rob: I draw my revolver!

Chemise-Rouge: My bodes ill sense...

Rob: Sorry, that's my Beatles album tourette's appea-SERGEANT PEPPER'S LONELY HEART'S CLUB BAND!
Brad: You draw your revolver and blindly fire at the creature. How many rounds do you fire?
Rob: Since it's blind...two.
Brad: You wound it with your first shot, but the second round goes wide.
Rob: I am firing blind...
Brad: The creature makes a second mind-attack. You reel at the effects of its psychic blast.
Rob: I try Lucy's Talisman! It's the thing in my inventory that managed to get nearest to her jugs!
Brad: Your head aches and throbs, but you manage to fumble in your pocket and draw out the talisman. You hold the object up in front of you and begin to recite the mantra.

Redshirt: Mandala, mandala, mandala
Chemise-Rouge: Mandala, mandala, mandala...

Rob: He's been out of jail for so long and not re-offended.
Brad: The alien's mind-attack grows in strength, but its power seems to be absorbed by the talisman. The alien makes one last effort. There is a high pitched scream...You feel a jolt and your arm goes numb!
Rob: Fucking hell, how many of these adventures am I going to be crippled in?

Chemise-Rouge: Quick! It'll feel like someone else is doing it!

Brad: The talisman has shattered and the alien creature sways silently a few feet in front of you. Suddenly, the creature in front of you collapses. Its tentacles twitch feebly, then it is still. Whatever that talisman did, it was effective!

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: This tunnel hasn't really caused us that much grief so far, let's carry on!
Chemise-Rouge: Christ...
Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Now he would cause us some bother.

Brad: You step past the remains of the creature and move down the tunnel. I love how you've just all totally accepted that as normal.
Rob: Compared to some of the things I've seen in these adventures, it's relatively normal. Remember the zombie carrot?
Brad: I can guarantee you that none of us involved will ever forget that game. Some yard further on, you step out into a cramped cave before what seems to be a giant mouth. Warm foetid breath plays on you.

Chemise-Rouge: Okay, that wasn't me.

Brad: This seems to be the entrance to some abominable device.
Rob: Enter the thing. Seems silly to come all this way and then go "Actually, no..."

Redshirt: Do...uh...we get a say?
Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Why ever would you? I'm still not convinced you're not figments of my overactive imagination.

Brad: You trusted the dream-vision of Omer...
Rob: Yeah, but I've met the real Omer.
Brad: Cautiously, you step inside the mouth-shaped opening. The floor is soft and mushy.
Rob: Is it made of...mush?
Brad: An over-powering stench wafts along the ribbed corridor, which reminds you, uncomfortably, of the inside of a giant throat. You're keeping an eye out for Mynocks, right?
Rob: Always.
Brad: You walk along this horrid passageway for several minutes, occasionally staggering as the whole crazy place lurches.

Chemise-Rouge: This still makes more sense than the zombie carrot.

Brad: You step out into a large circular space. You gaze up at a vaulted ceiling. It is as if you are standing beneath the ribs of some gigantic creature. The place hums and whirs, not with mechanical bustle, but with the murmurings of semi-living things. Do you think that, maybe, horror gamebooks can only go so long without jumping the shark?
Rob: I would say so, yeah. And since when do living things whir? Humming yeah, I get that. But I'm not of the understanding that cats are motorised.
Brad: I've not heard a cat hum, either.
Rob: I've never heard one sing, so I assume humming makes the most sense of what's left.
Brad: Venous cables recoil from your touch as you explore the room. Giant prisms, connected to living tissue, fill the room with an ever-changing display of colour, which plays upon the prone form of another human being. It looks as though he died during some fiendish experiment.
Rob: The fiends!
Brad: A fleshy helmet-like object...the author's words, not mine...connected to one of the prisms by a venous cable, lies near his head.

Redshirt: That's a +1 Skill Helmet. Try it on whilst we run in the other direction.
Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Much as I love +1 Skill Helmets, I somehow doubt this has the same magical properties.

Brad: What does all this mean? You gaze around, trying to understand the function of the weird paraphenalia which clutters this room. Once again your gaze falls upon the strange device. Do you place the fleshy helmet over your head, or leave this mad laboratory and make for the outside world?
Rob: Helmets go on heads, so of course that's happening.

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: I'm drawn to this helmet...

Rob: His words, not know what I mean!
Brad: You pick up the helmet and shudder - it's alive! Then, in one swift motion, you place it over your head. Instantly, it moulds itself to the contours of your face and waves of energy begin to bombard your mind.
Rob: Penis energy? Aww man...
Brad: Your body goes limp and you fall onto the soft floor.

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: No...jokes!

Brad: Now your mind is filled with a procession of strange images which flicker and merge like some weird film.
Chemise-Rouge passes Redshirt the popcorn.
Rob: Want me to keep separate inventories for them too? They'll be short. Pretty much just that popcorn and in-date Donor cards.
Brad: The images flow faster and faster and your body shakes from the pounding energy. You see creatures like the formless horror you slew in the tunnel. Creatures from another world, a world covered with a pale green fog. You learn the thing you are in is a semi-sentient creature-ship which can travel through space and time!
Rob: Bloody hell, just my luck.
Brad: It has been entombed beneath the mountain for millions of years. You see a great valley, teeming with reptiles; the alien ship lies within it. Wasn't the Great Valley where they were trying to get to in The Land Before Time? The Don Bluth thing that spawned a million straight-to-video sequels?
Rob: You know, I think it was.
Brad: The tentacled creatures appear once again, but this time they are commanding a whole horde of alien and unspeakable creatures. The horde slithers, flaps and crawls away from the creature-ship. Everything it meets is killed and devoured!
Rob: Those must be some awkward dinner parties.
"Hello, have we met?"
"Then how have you not been killed and eaten?" *smirk*
Brad: When the creatures return to the ship, bloated with prey, they are dissolved in huge vats and the knowledge they have gained is shared amongst the aliens...Suddenly, the images fade, the scene goes black and you hear hideous cries...Alien chants echo out of the void...Then there is only silence...You slip away into a numb blackness.
You awake inside the alien room. The fleshy helmet has shrunk back into its prism and the ribbed floor quivers beneath you. Double...Entendre...Overload...
Your head throbs and you feel exhausted.
Rob: You would after all that, only natural!
Brad: The floor is exuding a sticky substance that stings your hands, so you stagger to your feet, resting agains the prism.

Redshirt: Are you all right?
Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: No, I'm half left. LOLZ. Seriously, can someone help me up?

Brad: Your experience has better equipped you for the horrors to come.
Rob: Handy, considering my endurance has just about...endured.
Brad: You hurry out of the semi-living star-ship and back up the glass corridor. Briefly, you pause by the remains of the tentacled creature. You have vanquished an intelligent being from another world. That's par for the course for the Braggart family, surely?
Rob: Pretty much.
Brad: Then you hasten along the corridor, into a wam moist wind that reminds you of the natural world above. And Chemise-Rouge.
Rob: Isn't he with me then?
Brad: Yeah. I was just doing a fart gag. As you emerge into the weirdly-lit cavern, you realise that this warm moist wind is quite unnatural.

Redshirt: This is what I've been saying...

Brad: It nuzzles clammily at your face and drags stickily at your feet. Coils of strangely palpable air are wrapping themselves about your legs and slowing you down. Dusty pads of fibrous material are blowing out of the gloom. They cling to your clothes and then begin a hideous looping motion up towards your face. In a moment they cover your nose and mouth and try to pry inside!
You tear them away in handfuls, but the evil wind only brings them back to you. Now, you spy something writhing out in the centre of the cavern, along the railway line. Your escape route is blocked. To your left, the tumbled boulders simply give out. To you right, they cut a swathe out over the sea of fungi.
Rob: I follow the boulders out across the cavern floor. After all, dodgy footing hasn't cost me much in these games recently.
Brad: You scramble and jump from boulder to boulder, out over the sea of fungi. The strange wind tugs at your clothes and you glance back over your shoulder. The writhing thing is pursuing you.
Rob: The way this book writes, you'd think the wind was a little kid.
Brad: You hurry on, jumping from rock to rock. Ahead you can see the entrance to a tunnel. You plunge ahead into the blackness of the mine. Your lamplight bounces crazily off the walls, shadows leer and the malevolent wind tugs at your shoulder.
Rob: Like a petulant child...Probably the really sickeningly cute kind with a lisp.
Brad: You run for your life and see that ahead the tunnel splits.
Rob: I dodge to the west. Hopefully life is peaceful there.
Brad: You run down this tunnel and burst out into a small cave. Desperately, you hold your lamp high, searching for an escape route. In the dancing shadows you perceived a flight of steps cut into the rock. You run up the stairs two at a time and find yourself on the edge of an enourmous cavern.

Redshirt: Who built this place?!?
Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: And why did they give this bit stairs? They serve no purpose!

Brad: The strange wind begins to beat up the stairs toward you. Desperately, you try to think of something to defeat this horror.
Rob: Use the dynamite!

Chemise-Rouge: There is no way that this can possibly go wrong.



Stephen Fry's secret wife speaks out at last...

Enjoyed a nice cuppa this morning with a HobNob and Jeremy Kyle. There was a woman on there who'd been married 16 years without realising her husband was gay. Extraordinary! Which reminds me, it's our 16th anniversary in a few weeks. What a coincidence.

Stephen Fry - actor, writer, raconteur and wit. Cerebral and sophisticated, a true renaissance man. Or is he? Finally, his secret double life - the womanizing, the window-cleaning, the kebabs, the karaoke - is exclusively revealed by Edna, his devoted wife and mother of his five, six or possibly seven children. These diaries take us through a year in the life of an unwitting celebrity wife, and are rumoured to include: - scandalous nocturnal shenanigans - advice on childcare - 101 things to do with a tin of Spam.

A good diary should be like a good husband - a constant companion, a source of inspiration and, ideally, bound in leather. - Edna Fry

Thanks to our friends at Hodder & Stoughton, we've got three copies of Mrs Fry's Diary to give away - signed by Mrs Fry herself! For your chance of winning, send in your name and full postal address to before midday on Friday 22nd October. The first three names out of the electronic hat will win a copy each!

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