Friday 24 December 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 is GMing Rob through an RPG based on the classic Robin Waterfield gamebook Phantoms of Fear. Brad is the DM, and Rob plays his character, Braggolas. Brad: What lies before your eyes is like a mockery of the forest you know and love.
Rob: Actively mocking?
Brad: Passive aggressively, I think. There are trees all right - although many areas have been devastated, as if by fire or by a horde of careless axe-wielding Dwarfs. In contrast to the clarity of the air where you are and in the pleasant valley below, the cursed region in the distance is shrouded by a murky haze, which rolls and seethes with a chaotic life of its own. But your observations of the scene are cut short by a sudden harsh cry, which rips the still air, silences the birds twittering in the trees above you, and sends a spurt of chill fear into your heart. You jump to your feet in alarm.
Braggolas: What the fuck was that?!
Rob: I hold my ground.
Brad: There is no sign of any living creature that might have uttered the unearthly cry you heard. While you watch from the hill, however, the swirling haze which covers the blighted forest suddenly leaps into greater motion and, even though you are far away, you are simultaneously struck by a furious blast of sorcerous wind, which knocks you off your feet.
Rob: I believe that's what's known as "an ill wind".
Brad: At the moment the wind struck, you were fortunately breathing out, so none of the evil blast entered your lungs.
McSpindle: *coughs and sputters*
Brad: You continue your journey on all fours. It is some time before you dare to pick yourself up and proceed as normal through the trees. You wonder whether the blast of wind was directed by some intelligent mind towards you in person, or whether it was the instinctive response of evil towards good.
McSpindle: Wow...ego, much?
Brad: You realise that, however hazardous your journey up to now has been, the dangers have at least been reasonably familiar. Once you reach the blighted land, however, you suspect that you will enter an uncharted region of unknown terrors.
Rob: Uncharted, eh?
McSpindle: *strumming lute*
Crawling on his hands and knees
He skulked towards his goal...
Braggolas: Someone make a map of these bits, we'll sell it to Ordnance Survey!
Brad: Before long, you are at the foot of the hills, and you enter the glade whose spring greenery you admired from above. There is no doubt in your mind that this is an enchanted place, containing the power of Good.
Rob: It is lovely greenery.
Brad: The air is fresh and sweet, small flowers dapple the sward, and the trees - mainly silver birches - are filled with trilling birds.
McSpindle: Do you think there will be power ups around here?
Braggolas: I would hope so. I'm after a +1 Skill Helmet.
Brad: You have no idea whose enchantment this place is under, but you can guess why it is there - as a bastion against the Evil of the blasted lands beyond. You revel in the pleasant atmosphere as you stroll among the trees.
Braggolas: Anyone else want a Revel?
Brad: Soon, you come to a fair-sized pool, which is fed by a bubbling brook.
Braggolas: I warn you, they're a mixed bag....badoomtish.
McSpindle: Drinking from weird pools, huh? You'll never catch me doing that.
Rob: I drink from it.
Brad: The water is clear and refreshingly cool. After drinking, you sit on the bank and gaze in wonder around you. Somewhat to your surprise, you find that your head is resting on the soft turf. You drift off to sleep.
***McSpindle has equipped MARKER PEN***
Brad: In your dream, the fairy folk who attend this enchanted garden appear to you. They tell you that they are the secret children of Galana, goddess of plants and fertility. They dance and teach you many...
Brad: ...things about plants that even the Wood Elves do not know. Finally, they invite you to stay with them, to combat evil by tending their Garden of Good. It is a sweet temptation, especially to a Wood Elf.
Rob: Plus there's probably hotties...
Brad: You harden your resolve and spurn the offer of the fairies; your destiny lies more in direct action. You awaken from the dream and find that the glade has vanished.
McSpindle: Sorry.
Braggolas: Who's nicked my air freshener?!
Brad: You are right on the border of the blighted land; all that is left of the enchanted glade is a single elder tree. The tree is obviously magical: your attention is drawn to its branches in particular, because of their regular arrangement.
McSpindle: Are we in Gondor?
Brad: You notice that there are exactly twenty-two branches
Rob: Twenty-two, eh? That's a very precise number...
Brad: All but one are normal, leafy boughs; but the other is silver and gleams with its own inner light.
McSpindle: Yeah. Nice, round number.
Braggolas: Twenty two has rounded tops, but not otherwise.
Brad: You pluck it, stow it in your backpack, and take your first step into Ishtra's cruel kingdom.
***Braggolas has acquire SILVER BRANCH***
Brad: After only a few steps in the corrupt forest, you know that something is wrong.
It is not just the sense of Evil, which you will get used to as you would to a bad smell which is not noticed after a while. There is something more...something within yourself.
Rob: Hmmmmm.....
Braggolas: Did I get rid of all those leeches from my jap's-eye?
Brad: You will find that from here on, in your adventure, you are unable to cast any spells. One of Ishtra's defences is to prevent any magic except his own being effective in his domain. You retain your Power score, however: there may yet be some use for it! As you walk forward, the evil mist which you saw from the hillside seethes around you, as if urging you to return. Lightning plays over to your right; a tall pine, throttled by ivy which is wriggling even now, looms in your path.
From your survey from the hillside, you know that his blighted part of the forest is almost circular in shape, spreading out from a centre which must be where the entrance lies to Ishtra's underground stronghold. All you have to do is follow the steady worsening of the blight and you will reach your goal. One obstacle at a time, however.
Rob: When all else fails, follow the blight.
Brad: You have reached one of the patches of bare ground, where the trees have rotted away to nothingness.
Rob: I don't follow, where's the obstacle?
Brad: I think it was a metaphor.
Rob: I walk around the bare ground.
Brad: The rot which has created the clearing has also started to affect the trees on the edge of the clearing. You step on something squelchy, and a foul smell rises; when you look down, you see that it was a root, rotted from the inside by the Evil in the soil. And then...
Rob: ...Suspense...
Brad: ...was it a trick of the shifting half-light of this place, or did that root move slightly?
McSpindle: It was a trick of the shifting half-light of this place.
Braggolas: I had hoped so.
Brad: No, it was not your imagination, for now several roots are squirming towards you, dripping noxious slime.
McSpindle: I ready my lute.
Braggolas: If it's not spiked at the edge, don't you fucking dare!
Brad: And now they are joined by a dozen more, and now more. You must hack your way through these roots. You gain +1 in this combat for using the Weevil Man's hatchet in one hand and your sword in the other.
Rob: Sweet as!
Running Combat
You get to the root of the problem.
Get it?
Rob: Wait...Yes! Wait...No...Yes!
The Roots frape you.
Rob: He guessed my password?!
has the best roots in the world ever and he is gay for them.

You kick the roots' ass. As much as roots have asses.
Brad: You leave a foul mess behind you and break away, further from the clearing, where the rot has not warped the trees so much.
Rob: Why did I shit myself?
Brad: You continue through the cursed forest. The leaves are brown and swollen beyond their normal size; there is a constant dripping of vile liquid from the leaves onto the soggy ground. Late in the afternoon - or so you guess it to be, but the sun is usually invisible beyond the seething brown mist - you come across a definite trail, tending to your left. You dread to think what manner of creatures may have made a trail in this doomed place.
Braggolas: Probably tramps.
Rob: We follow the trail.
McSpindle: I'm bored.
Braggolas: I never thought I'd say this, but I think you'd be less annoying if you wrote a song about the last battle. I mean, ultimately, isn't that why you're here? To write songs about my great successes?
McSpindle: *strumming lute*
The brave Braggolas strode
And did some gardening
This is his proudest task so far
And so he made me sing.
Brad: You walk warily along the trail. To your relief, nothing pounces out at you from the woodland on either side, and there appear to be no traps. Inside the fence the trees have been cleared, but great holly bushes have been allowed to spring up. The hollies are so dense that you cannot see whether or not there is anything else apart from them here. The spot has obviously been created by an intelligent mind - but for what purpose?
For all you know it could be a nursery for poisonous holly bushes.
Braggolas: Dumps?
McSpindle: Or Velociraptors.
Rob: I go into the fenced off area.
Braggolas: Nothing ventured, no limbs lost, eh?
McSpindle: Even Nedry knew better than to mess with the Velociraptors...
Brad: The holly bushes are very prickly and may well be poisonous, but you find that there is enough space between the lowest branches and the ground for you to hope to crawl through.
McSpindle: I'm just going to watch.
Braggolas: Get tuning that lute, motherfucker, this is going to be great!
Brad: You would have to be lucky to make it unscathed, however.
Rob: I make the attempt, anyway
Brad: You start to wriggle through, pressing yourself into the ground. Your backpack tends to snag on the branches, but you leave it on your back as protection.
Rob: Makes sense. Protects my delicate spine.
Brad: You receive no scratches.
Rob: That's right.
Braggolas: Were you watching that? Get singing!
McSpindle: *strumming lute*
Once he cut the roots down
He crawled under a hedge
And I hope and prayed
And waited, for a word that rhymes with "hedge".
Brad: The holly bushes, you find, form a protective perimeter and come to an end before long. To your astonishment, you see within the circle of bushes a ramshackle hut. There is no sign of life.
Rob: No rams?
Rob: I lie for a while where I am, under the hollies and watch.
McSpindle: At what point does it stop being adventuring and become loitering?
Braggolas: Once I've decided whether or not it's worth masturbating before we move on.
Brad: The cracking of a twig to your right warns you that someone or something is approaching.
Braggolas: This should tell us.
Brad: Before you can react, a heavy foot presses down on your neck and immobilises you.
Braggolas: Probably not.
Brad: A gruff voice commands you to reach slowly for your sword and throw it away from you.
McSpindle: How's it going in there?
Braggolas: Fine...
Rob: Do as he says.
Brad: With a pang of regret, you slide Telessa out of its sheath and toss it
Rob: Hehehe...
Brad: onto the damp grass in front of you. You wonder what will happen next, but remind yourself that 'where there's life, there's hope'. The foot is lifted off your neck, and the voice tells you to get up.
Rob: Fuck, I'm reminding myself of saccharine proverbs? I'm dead.
Brad: When you do so, you see a strange sight.
Braggolas: ...Mum?
Brad: Before you stands a stocky human, leaning on the haft of a brilliantly polished two-handed axe. What is strange is the contrast between the care with which the axe has been maintained and the man's wild and unkempt appearance. His clothes are little more than rags, his long hair and beard are matted, and his bare arms are ingrained with years of dirt.
Suddenly he bursts into a cracked cackle of glee, and you realise that he is complete insane. You will have to tread carefully.
Braggolas: Listen, laughing man....let's be mates?
Rob: I'm planning to bide my time.
McSpindle: Is it safe to come in?
Braggolas: Yeah, and make some sudden moves while you're at it.
Brad: The Wild Man makes a mocking bow, extends an arm towards his dilapidated hut and invites you in. On the way, he scoops up your sword. McSpindle joins you.
McSpindle: Gordon's alive?
Brad: Once you are inside, he sweeps a bench clear of utensils and mouldy bread, and tells you to sit there; he draws up a chair opposite you. Once you have stopped sneezing from the dust you introduce yourself.
Braggolas: Hello there, my name is Braggolas. This is my bard and antagonist, McSpindle. He writes songs about all the great things I do. So far he's on two!
McSpindle: And I am McSpindle, his loyal chronicler and hype man.
Braggolas: He's my Don King, only with crazier hair.
McSpindle: Ixnay on the azycray airhay.
Brad: Something in what you say obviously strikes the Wild Man as incredibly amusing. He howls with laughter, until tears roll from his eyes down his cheeks, leaving trails in the dirt of his face. He doubles up with laughter and starts to roll around the floor, kicking his legs in the air. You realise too late that, for all his ludicrous antics, the man is a dangerous lunatic, driven to insanity by the Evil surrounding him in the forest.
He picks himself up off of the floor, wipes the tears of merriment from his eyes - and lops off your arm at the shoulder with his axe. You collapse unconcious and will never recover.
Braggolas: Fuck!
Rob: That. Was. Awesome!
McSpindle: It's all right for you. I was just used as a sex receptacle for the rest of my life.
Braggolas: What do you think this hole's for?
Dickass DM will return on Friday 7th January with Highway Holocaust.

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