Friday 22 July 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 Ian Livingstone gamebook Island of the Lizard King. Brad is the DM, and Rob plays his character, Brag Slytherin.

Catch up with previous Dickass DM installments here!
Brad: Let's get back classic: 1980s Fighting Fantasy.
Rob: Sounds good. Season 12 away! We beat Frasier!
Brad: That's just M*A*S*H to go now, right?
Rob: I guess, or maybe ER. And The Simpsons, obviously.
Brad: Oyster Bay is a quiet fishing village some sixty miles down the coast from the notorious Port Blacksand. Because it is at the end of a long peninsula reached only by a steep and winding path, the fishermen and their wives are left to lead a simple but content life, away from the monsters and sorcery of the hinterland.
Rob: Oyster Bay? Sounds delightful, though I suspect it will be anything but...
Brad: Journeying south from Fang, you decide that you could do with a few days' rest, and knowing of no more peaceful place than Oyster Bay, you urge your horse towards the coast.
Rob: Oyster Bay is south of Fang? Now it sounds less relaxing.
Brad: Besides, an old adventuring friend of yours called Mungo Redshirt lives there now, and it has been years since you last saw him. Two days later you arrive at the edge of the cliffs overlooking Oyster Bay.
It is a beautiful sunny morning and everything looks tranquil below. Nothing seems to have changed. The cluster of stone cottages nestles between the foot of the cliffs and the jetty, where a dozen fishing boats lie at anchor.
Rob: I don't like the placement of the word "seems" in that sentence.
Brad: "Seems" is a GM's favourite word. You jump off your horse and walk it down the winding path to the village. The first people you see are a group of crying women. As you approach them, several men step out of a cottage and run towards you.
Rob: I tackle the nearest one.
Brad: One of the four is your old friend Mungo Redshirt. His weather-beaten face is full of anger.
Rob: I just tackled him. It's understandable.

Mungo Redshirt: You've got some nerve coming back here after the stunt you pulled.
Brag: By stunt, you mean 'your mum'? OOOOOOOHHHHH!
Rob: I put my penis away.
Brad: He looks surprised to see you but wastes no time with words of welcome. He recounts the sad events that have befallen the village.
Rob: Did it start with the disappearance of his mother?
Brad: Having no gold or material wealth, the people of Oyster Bay thought themselves safe from raiders attacking their village. But several weeks ago, while most of the men were out at sea, the Lizard Men of Fire Island landed their boats in Oyster Bay and kidnapped several young men. Mungo Redshirt believes that they are now enslaved on Fire Island and working in chain gangs in the gold mines.
Since the kidnapping, two men were left to guard the village while the rest went out to fish.
Rob: They left two?! Out of how many?
Brad: Despite this, the Lizard Men attacked again this very morning, overpowering the guards and taking away more young men.
Mungo Redshirt: I am about to set sail for Fire Island alone, because the other fishermen are too scared to set foot on the Island.
Brag: Poofs.
Brad: He stares at you in silence until you say that you will aid him in his quest.

Mungo Redshirt: *stares*
Brag: What, you think I'm going to go? These guys are fishermen and they won't go....fishermen! Oh fine, I'll go. Maybe someone on the island has need of a landscape gardener and we can barter with them.
Mungo Redshirt: *stares*
Brag: I said I'll go!
Brad: He slaps you on the back and shakes your hand in gratitude.
Brag: Delayed reaction or what?
Brad: For the moment the poor fishing folk forget their grief and crowd round you, eager to thank you. Mungo Redshirt then invites you to dine with him and rest awhile, as the voyage to Fire Island will take several hours. Over a delicious feast of boiled lobster and salad, you discuss your plans.
Brag: During which time you'll notice that I mentioned having become a landscape gardener since last time we spoke.
Mungo Redshirt: Please forgive the ironic lack of oysters in this meal. *stares*
Brag: What? Oh! Sorry, Ha ha! No oysters, even though we're in Oyster Bay! Brilliant. Ahhh....funniest thing I've heard in ages.
Mungo Redshirt: *stares*
Brag: I said it was funny!
Mungo Redshirt: I do not think that humans live on Fire Island any longer, but my knowledge of the place is fairly limited.
Brag: Well, whoever lives there may want something in the way of Azalias, and that's where I come in!
Mungo Redshirt: These are just rumours that pass between fishermen from other coastal villages.
Brag: Go on...
Mungo Redshirt: Fire Island used to be a prison colony, guarded by a tribe of paid Lizard Men. This was a rather futile attempt by Prince Olaf to rid his land of undesirable characters.
Brag: Why were they paid? What need have Lizard Men for gold?
Mungo Redshirt: The good prince soon learnt that it would have been simpler to put his lawful citizens on Fire Island and leave the evil doers on the mainland. There were just too many of them. He gave up his attempt and abandoned the prison colony. When the Lizard Men received no pay, they took their vengeance out on the prisoners and the island became a place of terror ruled by a Lizard Man prison guard who proclaimed himself King. King Mc'spnd'lah.
Brag: Mc....Spnd...Lah?
Mungo Redshirt: *stares*
Brag: *stares*
Mungo Redshirt: The prisoners were forced to dig mines in the hope of finding gold for King Mc'spnd'lah. They were underfed and ill-treated and many died.
Brag: That'll happen.
Mungo Redshirt: That must be why King Mc'spd'lah is sending out his men to find new slaves.
Brag: I've been made to understand that it's one of the pitfalls (no pun intended) of mining.
Mungo Redshirt: It is known that to assert his authority, King Mc'spnd'lah began practicing voodoo and black magic.
Brag: The chocolates?
Mungo Redshirt: He also started genetic experiments in an attempt to breed an invincible race of Lizard Men. Most of the experiments went wrong. Grotesque mutants were created, and some of the harmful potions found their way into the water drains, with terrible consequences. The local flora and fauna were affected, with the result being that man-eating plants developed and...
Brag: And I agreed to go to this place?
Mungo Redshirt: A few of the prisoners managed to escape the island on rafts and were picked up by fishermen, but what has happened in the last few years, nobody knows. Fire Island had almost been forgotten until the recent raids.

Brad: Success in your quest to assassinate King Mc'spnd'lah and rescue the kidnapped victims is doubtful, but you must try.
Rob: Why?
Brad: *stares*
Rob: Why are you staring at me? More importantly, we're on MSN, how are you staring at me?
Brad: You stand up and walk down to the jetty with Mungo Redshirt, stepping aboard his small fishing boat. In the sight of cheering villagers, you untie the boat and push out to sea, wondering if you will ever return. Mungo Redshirt's years with the fishermen of Oyster Bay have made him a skilful boatman. He swiftly hoists the sail of the small boat and sets a course due west across the silvery-blue sea. The land soon recedes into the distance, and you sit back on the deck, relaxing in the afternoon sunshine.
From the stern you hear merry whistling, the creak of the rudder, and Mungo Redshirt occasionally calling out to a seabird passing overhead. And staring at others. You think about the good time you used to have with Mungo Redshirt, his constant cheerful nature and willingess to help people in need. You find it difficult to believe that so much evil exists in the land where there lives the likes of Mungo Redshirt.
Brag: Yeah, why aren't you that guy anymore? Why did you start just staring randomly at objects?
Mungo Redshirt: *stares*
Brag: Oh, forget it.
TO BE CONTINUED...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 Ian Livingstone, the Fighting Fantasy series, Island of the Lizard King, and all other gamebooks of yesteryear.

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