Friday, 18 February 2011

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 Joe Dever gamebook Highway Holocaust. Brad is the DM, and Rob plays his character, Brag Phoenix.

Catch up with previous Dickass DM installments here!
Brad: As you watch the town shrinking in your rear view mirror, the shock of your encounter, especially the death of Averagely Heighted Jake, makes you shiver despite the burning midday heat.
Brag: So how did you know they were bad motherfuckers, then?
Girl: [shaky voice] I don't know them by choice.
Brad: As you race along the highway to McKinney, the girl, whose name is Kate Norton, tells you about the events leading up to your meeting. She comes from Kansas City and is one of the lucky few who have managed to survive there since the holocaust. A month ago her colony was attacked and wiped out by a gang of motorcycle renegades called "the Lions". Their leader, who calls himself Mad Dog Michigan, took a liking to her and spared her life.
MCSPINDLE: The leader of "The Lions" goes by the name "Mad Dog"?
Brad: He was once a high-ranking HAVOC agent who had escaped from Pontiac Deep Pen near Detroit, and he and his gang, most of whom were also HAVOC escapees, were heading for the Fort Hood Military Reserve near Killeen, the largest armoury in the whole of the United States.
Brag: Ahhhh, HAVOC? We don't like them, do we? Ooh, no...Evil...
Kate: He hopes to find enough weapons and ammunition there to equip the other HAVOC clans who are in control of cities all along the eastern seaboard. Once he's armed his army he'll take over the rest of the country.
Brad: Her eyes brim with tears.
Kate: Three days ago The Lions reached Oklahoma City. They were desperate for food, so Mad Dog decided to camp there and forage the surrounding area.
Brag: Dogs I've heard everything...
Kate: Until then I'd always been kept closely guarded, but while most of them were away I managed to steal a bike and escape. I was beginning to think I'd made it. I was wrong.
Brag: Evidently.
Kate: I ran out of fuel just north of Sherman and had to ditch the bike. I met up with your friend this morning when he walked into town. Soon after he'd told me all about you and your colony and your plans to head west, those guys back there arrived. Mad Dog sent them to find me.
Brag: I had worked that out, but thanks there, frumpy.
Brad: She pauses to wipe her tears and brush the tangle of windswept blonde hair away from her beautiful face.
Kate: I'm really sorry about what happened to Long Jake.
Brag: Did you shoot him?
Kate: It's all my fault.
Brag: I don't mean figuratively, I mean "Did you shoot him"? Look, what killed him was massive loss of blood due to a gun shot. Where we're going...there should be less of that.
Kate: I hope you're right, Brag.
MCSPINDLE: Of course he's right. Killeen is south of here, and we're heading west. He'll miss us by miles.
Kate: [wavering and hesitant] Maybe, but there's something else you ought to know.
Brag: There's that 'Bodes Ill' indicator going wild again...What's that?
Kate: The guy you killed back there in the store, the one who wasted Long Jake, well, his name was Stinger.
Brag: Awesome...Like the missile?
Kate: Well...he was Mad Dog Michigan's brother. When the others report what has happened to him, Mad Dog's gonna be after us for sure.
Brag: What kind of masochists were their parents?! Mad Dog and Stinger?!
MCSPINDLE: Your name is "Brag Phoenix"...
Brag: You're a car. Shut up.
Kate: Mad Dog's a psycho. Believe me, I know.
Brag: I figured that Mad as a prefix was not due to his penchant for the magazine, cheers.
Kate: He'll stop at noting to get even.
Brad: The familiar outline of McKinney appears on the horizon and you increase speed. You are keen to return as quickly as you can and warn the colony of the danger now approaching from the north. Your return is met with mixed feelings: all are upset to hear that Reasonably Well Built Jake is dead, and many are disappointed that you could not save the cache of rifles and ammuniion that he found.
Brag: Shit, I forgot about that!
Brad: However, all, without exception, are thankful that you are still alive and, despite the threat of a revenge attack by Mad Dog Michigan, they welcome Kate to the colony with open arms. In the light of this new threat to your safety it is decided that the colony should not wait until tomorrow to begin its long journey west. With all the major preparations already completed, the convoy is loaded and ready to move off within the hour.
Brag: That's fortunate.
Brad: All that remains to do, once the convoy is at a safe distance is to set fire to the ranch.
Rob: ...
Brad: ...
Rob: ...Why?
Brad: This will destroy the supplies you are forced to leave behind, preventing them from falling into the hands of either Mad Dog Michigan, or the murderous city gangs of Dallas and Fort Worth.
Rob: Makes sense.
MCSPINDLE: Why can't they have it? I mean...if we can't have it, they may as well, right? It's just bombay mix and Sprite...
Brag: Are you wrong in the dipstick?
MCSPINDLE: So, just because we don't get on with them, we want them to starve to death?
Brag: What do you even care?
MCSPINDLE: I'm worried about the sort of people I'm moving on with, here.
Brag: We only made you self-aware; who the fuck gave you a soul?
Brad: Once the Ewell ranch is ablaze, you lead the convoy cross-country towards Denton. There you hope to pick up Freeway 35 and follow it south on the first stage of your journey to Big Spring. Two miles outside Denton, you signal to the others to halt while you go ahead and make sure that the town is empty and the freeway is clear of obstructions. You arrive at a ridge of high ground that overlooks the ruins of Denton. The place is familiar - you have stopped here many times over the past few months during your routine patrols of the area, to check that the town was not being used as a base by the gangs who were raiding McKinney.
Rob: Makes sense.
Brad: Although you cannot see anything out of the ordinary, you sense that something is wrong, that there is a hidden danger lurking in Denton.
MCSPINDLE: The "Bodes Ill" light has come on.
Brag: I'll top it up when we get back.
Brad: Your skin prickles at the thought of investigating the ruins lest your suspicions prove correct, but, on the other hand, the convoy must reach the freeway. You consider your options carefully.
Rob: I use binoculars. Nothing untoward ever happened to someone using binoculars not named Skywalker.
^ Say what you like, You totally hear the noise as you're reading that.
Rob: That's how a Tusken sounds phonetically? Jesus.
Brad: You try, then.
Rob: Heeeeeeeeeergggh, herrrrrrrrgh herrrrrrghh, herrrrrghh....?
Brad: You raise the heavy Zeiss binoculars to your eyes and slowly scan the ruins. There is little to confirm your suspicions: rolling tumbleweed and the shimmering heat of early afternoon are the only movements you observe among the derelict remains of Denton.
MCSPINDLE: Do you see any Banthas?
Brag: Nope, but there are some sandpeople, I can see one of them now.
Brad: Then something catches your eye at the entrance to an alley near the centre of town. Your pulse quickens when you recognise it. It is a haze of oily blue smoke - the exhaust fumes of a motorcycle.
Rob: I enter Denton and take a closer look. Nothing untoward ever came from exploring a derelict town.
Brad: Cautiously, you drive through the centre of the town, your nerves like coiled springs as you scour every inch of the ruins for some sign of life. Having reached the far side of Denton and seen nothing untoward, you decide to turn your car around and head back towards the convoy. Then you hear the sound of motorcycle engines being kicked into life, and suddenly, three bikes burst our of a wooden building near the centre of the town and come racing towards you, their riders whooping like Native Americans. All three machines are carrying pillion passengers who are armed with an assortment of weapons.
As the first bike draws level, its passenger gets ready to leap into the seat besides you. You wait until the man is about to jump, then you brake heavily and swerve towards the motorcycle. The rider senses your move and stamps on the rear brake, locking his back wheel and slewing his machine sideways along the road. The passenger is sent flying. He hurtles through the air like a rock from a catapult, and crashes agains the trunk of your car with a sickening thud.
MCSPINDLE: Ow! My boot!
Brag: Shut up, this is where you're supposed to be focusing on driving!
Brad: You hear him groan and catch a glimpse of his body in your rear-view mirror, lying broken on the stony ground as you accelerate away towards the ridge. The other bikers lose interest and soon give up the chase.
Brag: Good fucking riddance. Trying to jump on my talking car. There's a sentence I never thought I'd use...
Brad: They return to the town, pausing only to curse and fire a few ill-aimed shots at your back as you make your escape.
Brag: It gets easier the more you do it. Now go for the short one!
Brad: On your speedy return to the convoy, Uncle Jonas tells you that a moving cloud of dust was sighted to the north soon after you left to scout Denton. Judging by the short time it took to cross the horizon, he suspects bikers on the move.
Brag: Now we've got to contend with dust as well?
Uncle Jonas: We'd best swing aroun' Denton by the south-west...
Brad: He squints at a tattered old route map that he has spread across the hood of The Brag-Wagon.
Uncle Jonas: ...just in case it was some o' them Yankees you tumped in Sherman.
Brad: You gaze at the now-empty horizon and nod in agreement.
Brag: Yeah, probably.
Uncle Jonas: You take point, Brag.
Brag: Who's Point? She hot?
Brad: He folds up his map and goes off to pass word of the detour to Cutter and the others. You see fear and uncertainty in their eyes as Uncle Jonas explains the sudden change of plan. As soon as he is back behind the wheel of the bus, you start your engine and lead the convoy away to the south-west, towards a parched bowl of cracked and barren land that was once the bed of Lake Lewisville. The journey south-west to Lake Lewisville is a slow and arduous trek across rough terrain, but one that cannot be avoided as you skirt around Denton. When finally you sight the dry lake, it is clear that crossing it will be a dangerous business as the convoy will make an easy target to anyone occupying the surrounding high ground.
You must get the convoy across in the shortest time possible. The bed of the lake is littered with rusted car wrecks and old houlsehold machinery.
Rob: Sounds to me like Oregon Trail. Which, given my experiences playing the game, does not bode well for my party.
Brad: Not a strong point for you, that one, then?
Rob: I left with four people and arrived with two.
Brad: Were they two of the original pilgrims, or were they acquired en-route?
Rob: Original pilgrims, I think. I don't remember picking anyone up. I think you're thinking of Crazy TaxiBrad: Possibly.
Between these heaps of twisted scrap are avenues covered with slabs of broken earh that jut upwards at all angles, their sharp edges baked hard by months in the furnace-like heat. The bus and the tanker, both heavily laden, are soon reduced to a snail's pace for fear of shredding their tyres, and you are forced to stay close in case they break down or fall victim to an ambush.
Rob: Makes sense.
Brad: The sudden glint of sunlight on glass alerts you to a potential danger.
Rob: You mean the vehicles breaking down, right, not the drivers? I don't think I can handle whingers in my party.
Brad: Two hundred yards away to your left, on a ridge of high ground that overlooks the lake, you see a dark figure crouching beside a petrified tree, observing your progress through a telescope. The only people likely to be in this area are scouts of food foragers from one of the Fort Worth street gangs. If this spy manages to alert his gang, the colony might never make it out of Lake Lewisville alive.
Rob: I go after the spy on foot...Wait, aren't I in a car?
Brad: Yeah, but he's a bit of an emotional wreck.
Brad: See?
Rob: Right.

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