Sunday, 19 June 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: You return to the school in time to see Kate handing little Maria back to her parents. Juan and Rosita Rodriguez cannot thank her enough, and everyone else, including yourself, is full of praise for her.
MCSPINDLE: What happened to the hermit guy?
Brag: Paedo Joe? We lost him.
Brad: As the excitement begins to wane, Cutter appraches and asks you to brave the storm once more, this time to retrieve food and other vital supplies from the bus.
Willingly you agree. Makes a change from scouting, right?
Cutter: This is one heck of a blue norther...
Brad: You climb aboard the bus.
Cutter: Reckon it could hold us here for a day or two before it blows itself out.
Brag: I hope not...look at this...
Brad: You prise up the floor hatch that gives access to the luggage hold. A fetid smell rises from the compartment: The smell of rotted food.
Rob: I left all the luggage at the airport! Damn it!

Cutter: Dadburn it! That's all we need right now! The heat's put paid to these rations. Now we're really in for a hard time.
Brad: The colony react to the news of the spoiled food with silent disbelief.
Rob: Are we sure they've not starved to death?
Brad: What little that can be saved is carefully shared out, but it amounts to barely a day's rations per person.
Aunt Betty-Ann: If we don't find some food to replace what we've lost, it'll be a convoy of skeletons that drives into Big Spring.
MCSPINDLE: Fine with me.
Pop Ewell: Well, at least we've got enough water. We can live for three weeks without food, but we'd all be dead in three days without water.
Brag: Trust you to be logical, you old bastard! I'm peckish! Emergency!
Brad: Some people save their ration but you decide to eat yours before settling down to sleep. You awake ten hours later in a schoolroom bathed in bright sunlight. The storm has passed during the night and the sun has returnded, bringing with it the oppressive heat.
Cutter: Ninety-two degrees already...
Brad: He taps an old mercuric thermometer that hangs on the wall.
Cutter: And it's not yet eight o'clock. Today's a day for fryin' eggs on the sidewalk...if we had any eggs, that is.
MCSPINDLE: Hah! It's funny because I don't need food.
Brad: Soon the colony is busy making preparations to leave. After clearing away the dust you check your the BragWagon thoroughly, making sure that the fuel is clean and that the engine runs as smoothly as ever. Meanwhile, Cutter oversees a group who are working on the bus and Uncle Jonas heads another team who are servicing the tanker.
Rob: Sexually? Because that has to suck.
Brad: The others, led by Kate, search the school for anything that could be useful on the road ahead. By mid-morning the convoy is back on the road, following Freeway 20 away from the dust-blown ruins of Abilene on the next stage of the Journey west. You have been driving for little over an hour when you see a bridge in the distance and notice a glint of sunlight bouncing off a point near the centre of the parapet. Not until you are within a hundred yards of the bridge do you realise what is causing the refraction: it is the telescopy sight of a sniper's rifle and it is aimed directly at you!

Brag: Damnit. Alcatraz has found me.
Brad: You react swiftly to the danger by pulling the steering wheel to the left and leaning with your car as it swerves across the freeway. A moment later you hear the metallic whine of the bullet as it ricochets off the edge of your windshield.
Brag: You suck!
Brad: Tiny fragments of the high-velocity bullet pepper your headreast, but you survive the attack unscathed.
Brad: Quickly you recover control of The BragWagon and signal to the others to accelerate. By the time the unknown sniper has reloaded his rifle, you and the convoy are speeding away from the bridge, obscured by a cloud of dust. It is not until you reach the town of Trent, seven miles beyond the bridge, that you consider it safe to slow down and allow the convoy to resume its cruising speed.
MCSPINDLE: Why is Alcatraz shooting at me?
Brad: The sniper attack and the burning midday sun have left you shaking and streaming with sweat.
Brag: Well you're tied to me...and he hates me.
Brad: The battered houses and stores of this Texan town slip past and once again a featureless plain of broken, sun-baked earth stretchs before you. Your pulse has just returned to normal when you notice, out of the corner of your eye, something that sets it racing once more. Less than a mile to the north a small cloud of dust is moving across the plain parallel to the freeway. Slowly it draws nearer until you can hear the sound of two motorcycles and glimpse the ugly faces of their riders.

Brag: Shite.
Brad: They are both standing to help balance their bouncing machines, and as they approach the freeway, they open their throttles and lift their front wheels in a display of bravado. They draw level with The BragWagon, one on either side, and you notice the symbol that is painted on the sides of their fuel tanks. It is the head of a lion with its teeth bared: the symbol of the Detroit Lions clan. The clansman to your right shouts something but the rush of wind steals his words.
Brag: We've got to contend with pikey wind as well?!
Brad: You sense something land in the car, and when you turn to look, you are horrified to see a live grenade lying on the passenger seat besids you.
MCSPINDLE: My Bodes Ill light has come on again.
Brag: I'll top it up, alright?!
Brad: With terror gnawing at your insides you reach down and take hold of the grenade. In the next instant you hurl it out of the car and slam your foot down on the gas pedal.
Rob: This can only end well, can't it?
Brad: Seconds later there is a dull thud, and in your rear view mirror you see the biker to your left disappear in a ball of orange flame as the grenade explods underneath his motorcycle and ignites the fuel tank. Cutter sounds the bus' horn to alert you to the position of the remaining clansman.
Brag: Wow, that was fortunate!
Rob: That's a hell of a horn he's got.
'Beep! he's on your left!'
Brad: He is coming up fast on your blind side and, as he draws level, he jerks a machine pistol from his saddle-bag, cocks the bolt with his teeth, and open fire. You accelerate a split second before the angry clansman empties his machine pistol into The BragWagon in one long burst of fire.

MCSPINDLE: I need an adult!
Brad: The special armour-piercing loads penetrate the rear...many of them passing clean through the trunk and out the far side.
Brad: Miraculously, you escaped with just a grazed rib, the bullet having been stopped by the thickness of your driving seat.
Brad: Had it travelled two inches further it would have severed your spine!
Brag: I thought you were hurt.
MCSPINDLE: Yes; I'm in agony.
Brad: Once more you glance in your mirror and see the biker coax his machine into your slipstream. Behind him the convoy is barely visible, the bus and tanker cannot match the speed that you have maintained in your race against the clansmen.
Brag: Poofs.
Brad: Then you see your enemy reaching inside his leather jacket. He withdraws a grenade, pulls out the safety pin with his teeth, and gets ready to lob it into The BragWagon.
Brag: Not again!
Brad: Immediately you stamp on the brake pedal and fight with the steering wheel to keep the BragWagon in a straight line as it screeches to a halt. A moment later there is a tremendous jolt as the clansman crashes into the rear of the BragWagon.

Brad: An instant later he somersaults over your head, wide-eyed with terror, before disappearing behind the central crash barrier that divides the freeway. A muffled boom and a plume of dust marks the violent demise of yet another Detroit Lion.
Brag: Suck it!
Brad: You pull over in order to check the battle damage and allow the rest of the convoy to catch up with you. Fortunately the vital rear sections of The BragWagon - the fuel tank, axle and McSpindle's CPU - are still intact. Most of the damage has been absorbed by the trunk and the fender, but the incident makes you sorely aware of the need for better protection, and you make a mental note to ask Cutter to help you reinforce the bodywork at the first opportunity.
Rob: Oh, joy.
Brad: A few minutes later the convoy arrives. Having passed the burning remains of your adversaries the others are relived to find you still in one piece. You inform them that the bikers were Detroit Lions, probably scouts, and that you suspect that the clan is no more than thirty miles away.
Cutter: Well, at least those two you ran into won't be reporting our position to Mad Dog, or anyone else, for that matter. Like Alcatraz.
Uncle Jonas: Even so...we daren't afford t'stop too long in any one place.
Brag: I...uh...yeah, that's fine.
Uncle Jonas: We gotta keep ahead o' that pack all the way to Big Spring.
Brag: Sorry, it takes me a while to process all this fucking gibberish out of your mouth.
Brad: The next town on the freeway is Sweetwater. Most of the buildings are still standing, although few have roofs as a result of yesterday's storm. Except for a few hungry coyote that have come down from the hills looking for jack rabbits, the place is deserted.
MCSPINDLE: I thought they ate Road Runners. You learn something new every day.
Brad: Cutter signals for you to stop. The engine of the bus is overheating and, despite the risk of a clan attack, it must be allowed to cool down. The other take the opportunity to search the town for food, and you busy yourself by refuelling the BragWagon.
Uncle Jonas: What do you make of that, Brag?

Brad: He is standing on the cab of the tanker, pointing at a shimmering ribbon of light to the south of the town.
Brag: If that's a line of fucking snipers, I give up.
Brad: You climb up beside him and immediately you see that it is the sun reflecting off the surface of a small lake.
Uncle Jonas: Water!
Brad: The chance of replenishing the colony's depleted water supply is too good an opportunity to miss.
Brag: Be careful...I've seen Apocalypse Now..."
Brad: Uncle Jonas helps you load some empty plastic containers on to the BragWagon, and Kate volunteers to come with you to help fill and carry them. As soon as she is aboard, you start the enginer and drive off towards the distant lake.
Brag: Great, stuck in the car with a moody woman for company...
Brad: The lake occupies the centre of a saucer like depression and, as you bring your roadster to a halt at the edge of this rocky rim and stare down at the shimmering water below, you are heartened to see that clumps of vegetation are growing close by: a sure sign that the water is not contaminated. The sides of the depression are steep and covered with loose shale. Rather than risk a fall, you suggest to Kate that perhaps you should go down to the lake alone.
Brag: For fuck's sake. Now I'm sending myself on alone.
Words: Brad Harmer & Robert Wade
You can become Brad's "friend" on Facebook, or you can "follow" him on Twitter. Depends how creepy you want to sound really.
This is intended as a loving tribute to Joe Dever, the Freeway Warrior series, Highway Holocaust, and all other gamebooks of yesteryear.

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