Friday, 7 October 2011

Dickass DM: Halloween Special

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 and Clive Bailey gamebook Terrors Out of Time. Brad is the DM, and Rob plays his character, Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones.

Catch up with previous Dickass DM installments here!
Brad: You return home and examine the morning newspapers. Most editions carry news of last night's escapade: "Desecration of the British Museum!" yells one headline. "Trail of Destruction" shouts another. You pass the afternoon reading their lurid accounts.
Braggart: I might start a band called 'Trail of Destruction'.

Brad: Petrie-Heydrich arrives late in the evening and together you discuss the events so far.
Braggart: Lucy joining us?
Charles: No. And I think you know why.
Braggart: Look, how was I supposed to know that the dose I gave her would keep her asleep for a fortnight?
Brad: Charles listens carefully to your account, then sits back in his armchair and gazes thoughtfully into the fire. After a few minutes meditation he turns to you and says:
Charles: In Egyptian legend there are tales of sorcerers who travelled great distances in an instant, by means of magic "Thaati" gateways. They called it "flying on the wings of Horus".
Braggart: 'That' gateway? The wings of whores?
Charles: It sounds to me as if the thief, or h-is master, constructed such a gateway in the British Museum. However, he or they would require another, identical, gateway at the home base. I know of a sarcophagus which is the exact twin of the one you describe...
Mungo: ...which is a bit convinient...
Charles: is part of the collection of the Egyptologist, Sir Roderick McSpindle, at Shandwick House in Kent.
Braggart: McSpindle? Never heard of him.
Charles: Tomorrow, I shall follow up my assertion in the British Museum Library, while you collect the tools needed for a trip to Shandwick House!
Braggart: So... a horse and cart?

Brad: You awake in the morning, refreshed and eager for action. Charles has already left for the British Museum, so you breakfast alone and then start planning your trip to Shandwick House.
Braggart: I'll need a cart. I can get the horse later.
Brad: Rummaging through the drawers of your writing desk, you discover an Ordnance Survey map of southern England.
Rob: Pfft, I'll just use Bing Maps.
Brad: Spreading the map over the table, you search for Shandwick House and find it located close to the village of Gorham, about twenty miles from London. It seems prudent to make a nocturnal visit. Abandoning the map, you hurry into town to gather equipment. From a locksmith you buy a skeleton key, while a hardware shop furnishes you with a powerful electric torch.
Brad: Back at home, you open the safe in the study wall and remove your automatic pistol.
Brad: As dusk falls you leave Bedford Terrace.
Rob: I think we should visit Gorham, first, to question the locals.
Braggart: Might as well stop for a pint on the way, right?
Brad: Gorham is an old village whose buildings cluster round a large pond. It has one public house, The Crooked Staff, and it is this building that you park outside.

Braggart: Pint?
Brad: Opening the door, you enter a small oak-beamed bar which smells of beer and is warmed by a small fire. Two villagers are leaning against the bar and a third, who looks like a gamekeeper, is sitting near the fire.
Rob: Offer to buy the locals a drink.
Braggart: Do you want one, Mungo?
Mungo: Just a packet of crisps, please.
Braggart: What flavour?
Mungo: Mint.
Brad: Your offer is greeted with cold stares and silence.
Mungo: Ironically, not from me.
Braggart: I did offer to buy a drink.
Gamekeeper: There's none in Gorham that's so hard up they can't afford a drink. We've no need for stranger's money.
Braggart: That's fine, although it is worth more than your money....
Brad: Realising you have somehow offended them, you finish your drink quickly and return to the car. A mile or so down the road, you spot a sign for Shandwick House and a pair of imposing, wrought-iron gates. You park the car in the shadow of the estate's ivy-clad wall and hurry back.
Braggart: Well, I think I endeared myself to that pub, don't you?
Mungo: There's a dart in the back of your head.
Braggart: One hundred and eighty!

Brad: The bolts slide back easily enough, but the gates protest on rusty hinges as you push them open. You step out into the dark shadows of the gravel drive. Unkempt rhododendron bushes and gnarled trees line your route. They fill the night with disquieting rustling mutter as you pick your way between puddles and fallen branches. The drive opens our to reveal the forbidding prospect of Shandwick House, a great mansion built in the weird gothic style of the mid-nineteenth century.
As you plunge into the dark shadow of the place, you feel quite alone and imagine that furtive eyes keep watch from the unlit rooms. Stealthily, you approach the front door and peer in through the letter box.
Mungo: we ring...or use the knocker?
Braggart: *stares*
Brad: An old suit of armour stands to one side of the door, opposite is a hat and coat stand, the rest of the hallway is lost in gloom. Maybe there is some easier and more secluded entrance to the place.
Rob: Investigate the south side. Southside, motherfucker.
Brad: As you explore the south side of Shandwick House you discover a side door, hidden among the overgrown shrubbery.
Rob: Don't do it...
Brad: Pushing in among the foliage, you stealthily test the door handle. The door is locked. You will have to make use of your skeleton key.
Rob: All right.
Brad: Deftly, you manoeuvre the skeleton key about the old and apparently rusty lock. After a while your persistence is rewarded and you feel the lock grind back. The door creaks open to reveal a gloomy passageway, which seems to run along the north-south axis of the house. Shutting the door, you switch on the torch and play the beam briefly along the passage. Two closed doors are illuminated.
Braggart: Shhhhhh.

Rob: I try the door in the west wall.
Brad: You have entered a room in which the darkness is almost tangible. Shining the torch about, you see that walls, curtains and decorations are uniformly black.
Braggart: Well, this is gloomy. Not even a skylight?
Brad: There is no carpet, only bare floorboards and upon these is chalked a red circle. Within a circle stands a fantastic table.
Rob: Fantastic?
Brad: Three hideous brazen dragons writhe upwards to form a tripod. Their jaws gape wide to support a circular green marble top, upon which rests a bronze box.
Rob: I examine the bronze box. It'd be silly not to after coming this far.
Brad: Boldly, you step within the red chalk circle and advance to the Dragon Table.
Mungo: I ask again...why are we doing this?
Braggart: What do you mean 'we'? Open that box, will you, Mungo?
Brad: The bronze box is fashioned in the shape of a serpent's head, but it only contains a sickly-smelling incense. It is the turn of the green marble table top to arouse your curiosity.
Braggart: Oooh, pretty.
Brad: Under the torchlight it seems to glow with a strange, almost pulsing, green luminescence - and effect compunded by a disquieting spiral pattern which seems to lead the eye down to the table top. The strange pulsing pattern seems horribly attractive. You feel compelled to reach out and run your hands across the cold luminous surface. As you do so, your hands sink through the surface into an ice cold liquid!
Braggart: Errrrrrgh!

Brad: With a gasp you draw back, pulling your hands free of the enchanted table. Convinced of the Dragon Table's diabolical properties, you flee from the room.
Rob: I open the door in the east wall. I'm using Silent Hill theory. If the lock isn't broken, open the door and explore.
Brad: When you enter this room, your torch beam plays across a mass of furniture covered in white dust sheets.
Rob: Ahhhh, that scene from The Others.
Brad: Why do I feel like we're in Zombie Carrot territory with this one?
Rob: I know....
Brad: As you pick your way among the humped shapes towards another door in the north wall, you notice one large chair is conspiculously free of the spectral covers. Lying on the seat is an eight day old newspaper.
Braggart: I have a bad feeling about this.
Brad: The front displays the headline: 'Unexplained Disaster in Wales' and one paragraph has been savagely ringed in black ink.
Rob: Is it Jan Moir? She's awful.
Brad: The very paragraph which mentions your involvement in these strange events, and your home address!
Rob: Open the north wall door. Tonight, everything is an adjective. Ok, let's open that everything door!
Brad: What?
Rob: I said everything is an adjective.
Brad: ...Right. Even that?
Rob: Yeah.
Brad: You have entered a reception room, whose walls are lined with glass display cases.
The torch beam flashes over a collection of objects which seem to be curios from the East; here a procession of ivory and jade Buddhas, there a grotesque group of bronze Hindu deities.
Mungo: This one here is a bicurio.
Braggart: Wow, it's like a home redecoration programme on what will eventually be known as TV, except somehow less tacky.

Brad: Other cases present a collection of musical instruments: pipes, horns and curious drums.
Mungo: This one here is a bicurious drum.
Rob: How do I know they're curious, are they asking me questions?
Brad: However, pride of place has been given to a gold and glass box which houses a whistle, carved from ivory, in the form of a roaring, writhing dragon. A presentation card declares:
Dragon Whistle
Carved by Tibetan cultists
c. 15th Century AD
Considered to be a magic weapon

Brad: You have heard, from Petrie-Heydrich, curious stories of such artefacts.
Mungo: Bicurious stories.
Brad: Do you wish to take the whistle?
Rob: Yes. Yes I do. Because if there's one thing I've learned from Dickass DM, it's that acts of theft never go wrong. Or as Robert Burns said, the best laid plans of pikey pikey ne'er go wrong.
Mungo: That's a bi...
Braggart: All right, I got it! Whistles = Benders. Understood!
Brad: An open door leads from the room. This seems to be the entrance hall of Shadwick House. A large, exquisitely carved staircase rises up the north wall to a balcony landing, which runs the whole length of the west wall. The furniture is, however, sparse.
A coat stand (devoid of coats) is placed close to the foot of the stairs.
Rob: Then how do I know it was a coat stand? A-ha! Rob 1 Logic 0!
Brad: Opposite, in the south-east corner of the hall, stands a suit of armour and a small round table. Several letters lay scattered across the table top. I'm trying to come up with a "knight of the round table" gag that isn't shit. Are you?
Rob: Always. Examine the letters. Can I make them into words?
Brad: It would be awesome if Vorderman jumped out of the suit of armour.
Many of the letters, which are addressed to Sir Roderick McSpindle, remain unopened.

Braggart: That name rings a bell.
Brad: Yet, in addition, there are two envelopes addressed to a Baron Ausbach, c/o Shandwick House. The contents of the first envelope are missing, but from the postmark, you discern the letter was posted from Croydon aerodrome, three days ago.
Rob: Croydon has an aerodrome?!
Brad: The other envelope contains a letter from a person called Hiram T. Schroeder, who is advertised, on his letter heading, as "A collector of curios and unusual anthropological specimens.".
Mungo: That's bicurious and unusual anthropo...
Braggart: Enough!
Words: Brad Harmer & Robert Wade
Brad Harmer: Facebook Twitter
Rob Wade: Twitter
This is intended as a loving tribute to Ian and Clive Bailey, the Forbidden Gateway series, Terrors Out of Time, and all other gamebooks of yesteryear.

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