Friday 21 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: The plasma explodes across Ausbach's chest and he crashes backwards over the rail. With a great effort he struggles to his feet, climbs upon the handrail, perches for an instant, then leaps towards you. Instead of crashing at your feet in a wind-blown heap, his whole body seems to split apart, transforming into a monstrous flapping beast. Powerful talons grip your shoulders and leathern wings bear you up and away from the "Lucretia". The beast's wild eyes bore into your own and the vile familiar voice taunts you.
Ausbach: You shall be my slave and your life-force my toy!

Brad: Your mind slides down into a thankful oblivion. You awake on a damp and musty four-poster bed. With a start, you sit upright and stare in disbelief about an unfamiliar room. You seem to be in the circular chamber of a castle tower, yet it is furnished with objects from your airship cabin. All your possessions seem to be here, too, strewn across the floor.
A single doorway leads from the room, which is illuminated by light from a narrow open window.
Rob: I gather them all up!
Brad: You rise, gather your possessions, then investigate the door. It is locked. Turning to the window, you gaze out over the vista of a dark forest, which stretches away to the horizon. Below, is a sheer drop down the tower's flank to a rocky cliff and the silent, waiting trees. A narrow crumbling ledge, a few feet below the window-sill, leads away around the side of the tower.
How will you escape from this room?
Rob: Skellington Key!
Brad: You succeed. You step out onto a dark, spiral staircase, which seems to lead down into the tower. Switching on your electric torch, you see that the walls run with damp. There is a smell of decay about this place.
Braggart: Come back here! Mungo, are you here?
Brad: You can't see him.
Rob: I smell his decay.
Brad: Now you begin a cautious descent, which is interrupted only by the discovery of the small room.
Rob: I explore the room.
Brad: A light plank door creaks open to reveal a neglected laboratory/storage-room. A study table is piled high with dusty glass jars, test tubes and piping.
Rob: It'd have to be pretty big to store a laboratory...
Brad: In one corner is a grinning human skeleton. Bookshelves line the rest of the walls, sagging under the weight of musty mildewed tomes. However, your attention is drawn to a pile of wooden crates, which exhibit no signs of age or grime.

Braggart: What is your secret? I've tried everything to keep the signs away.
Brad: The top crate contains a most puzzling artefact: a gleaming brass lantern with a curious cone-shaped attachment welded to its front.
Rob: I examine this object more closely.
Brad: You pick up the lamp and are surprised to discover that it still contains fuel. The mechanism seems most eccentric.
Rob: Is it dressed as a penguin?
Brad: Instead of a wick surrounded by a glass cylinder, this lamp has a prism which appears to direct light in one direction only: through the brass cone welded to the lamp's side. Searching your pockets, you discover some matches and light this curious artefact. You are startled by the lamp's peculiar property: it casts a beam of darkness. Where the beam falls, solid object appear to dissolve into nothing.
Rob: Have I just found a portal gun?
Brad: Will you take the Dark Lantern?
Rob: Fuck yeah!
Brad: You leave the room and continue to descend the spiral staircase.
Rob: Down, down down to the burnin' Ring of Fire...
Brad: The spiral stairway leads you at last to the edge of a vast hall. You emerge onto a wooden balcony. To your left, is a stone staircase which descends into a great hall.
Tall arched windows illuminate decayed tapestries and an impressive display of weaponry: swords, spears, daggers and shields. Yet this faded medieval splendour has been invaded by the rude trappings of the twentieth century.
Rob: Isn't this set in the late 1800s?
Brad: Not with an airship. 1920s/1930s is my guess. 40s at a push.
Rob: Wasn't this the sequel to Where the Shadows Stalk?
Brad: Yeah, but that was never really established when that was set.
The warm breeze you felt on the stairs is supplied by a copper retort, which bubbles and steams at the top of the pile of pipes, storage cylinders and valves. There is also the deep throbbing hum of electricity; generators and batteries line an entire wall, while static electricy rises spectacularly along spiral conductors. In the middle of all this bizarre machinery, like a spider at the centre of its web, stands the corpse man from the British Museum, Baron Ausbach. He gloats over a prone human figure strapped to an operating table.

Ausbach: Soon, Harold Lathers will be no more.
Braggart: Who the fuck is..I mean...shhhh.
Ausbach: I shall extract the essence of your life-force for my own power and confer on your body the gift of perpetual animation! The evil Baron reaches towards a control panel which seems to control his infernal machinery.
Braggart: You won't turn him into a cartoon on my watch, motherfucker!
Brad: Do you want to descend the stairs to aid Harold Lathers, or leap at the ancient chandelier which hangs from the lofty ceiling?
Rob: Descend the stairs. I don't trust a DEX roll.
Brad: You rush down the stairs, two at a time, shouting at the top of your voice. Ausbach wavers before his infernal machine as you run across the hall towards him. Then suddenly he grabs the table, which is on castors, and propels his victim towards you.
Rob: Fuck, I knew there'd be a DEX roll somewhere.
Brad: The table sends you crashing to the flagstones.
Braggart: Ha! I could take a table shot all day!
Mungo: (hanging from ceiling) Sorry, I ordered a rescue. This appears to be a Three Fucking Stooges routine.
Braggart: Please don't throw another one!
Brad: Ausbach takes advantage of your discomfort to flee from the hall.
Ausbach: [shouting behind him as he runs] I have more important matters to attend to than your destruction! I leave you both to my pets!
Brad: You fumble with the leather thongs which bind the young man to the table.
Braggart: Oh bollocks. I hope they're just ill-tempered kittens.
Brad: Weakly, he struggles upright and introduces himself as Harold Lathers.

Harold: I fear that we can expect no mercy from Ausbach's pets.
Braggart: Yeah, yeah. Not now, unless you have a ball of wool between your legs.
Harold: See, they come! These are the results of Ausbach's vile experiments: the living dead and the never-to-be-born. They thirst for our blood and slaver for our life-force.
Braggart: Then how...never mind, I fear the answer will only depress me.
Mungo: Why did you leave me hanging here and free the Goth poet?
Brad: Into the hall hops, staggers and crawls a pack of jibbering bogies.
Rob: ...
Brad: ...
Rob: ...bogies?
Brad: I dunno. Must be 1920s slang for "Monster". Some cavort on stunted bird-like legs, others pull unspeakable serpent-like bodies along the flagstones. This has gone a bit Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, hasn't it?
Rob: Yeah...
Brad: They smack their thin decayed lips and an evil expectant gleam lights their eyes.

Braggart: Hey bogies, dinner's cancelled. Instead, we have an entree of arse-whooping, a main course of maiming and a dessert of....fucking your shit up!
Brad: You and Harold stand in the middle of the great hall, while the creatures swarm over the machinery, seeking to surround you.
Mungo: Please let me down. Please let me down. Please let me down.
Brad: How can you survive this horde? You will need some weapon suitable for mass combat.
Harold: Quick! On the shelf is a weapon Ausbach uses against those pets who displease him.

Rob: I heed harold's advice!
Mungo: Yes, good old Harold. Maybe he can be your new butler.
Brad: Together, you rush towards the shelf. Some of the bogies surge at you. Their leader, a thing like a giant hedgehog, grabs for your shoulder, but you thrust it aside and reach your goal.
Harold: Here! These clay pots contain something Ausbach calls corpse dust. He flings it at the creatures and they crumble away into dust. Come, we must make for that archway and escape from this accursed laboratory.
Braggart: That was super effective!
Brad: There are three corpse dust pots in the box.
Braggart: Thanks, Lathers!
Brad: As you and Harold retreat towards and archway, a gang of the loathsome bogies attack.
Mungo: Look, am I invisible?
Braggart: Until you help, yes!
Brad: Quickly, you grab a Corpse Dust Pot and hurl it at the creatures. You miss your throw, and the pot bounces harmlessly to the floor. You suffer some blows and bites from the Bogies.
Rob: Wa-hey! Throw another pot! I'm adopting Madden strategy!
Brad: The pot shatters, and several of the monsters dissolve.
Brad: The Bogies attack. You manage to dodge them...for the time being.
Rob: Try and escape.
Brad: Can you escape through the archway door and slam it in the face of the Bogie horde? Together, you and Harold slam the door.

Mungo: [muffled] I hate you.
Brad: Luckily, the bolt is on your side.
For a few moments you recover your breath, then head off along a dank corridor, lit by guttering reed torches. The way leads to the edge of a vast gloomy pit. This IS an Uncharted game. You step out into a strange bell-shaped pit.
From far above, a thin grey light falls on seven great stumps of black stone, set in a circle. At their centre, stands the corpse of a long-dead tree; its twisted branches and loaded down with a moss which glows eerily in the half-light.
Harold: We must be careful here.
Braggart: Sounds like a plan.
Harold: Ausbach calls this the Well of Souls.
Braggart: Original.
Harold: When I was first brought here, he threatened to cast me within the stone circle. We must keep close to the pit's edge. Come, there is another tunnel opposite us, behind the true.
Brad: Cautiously, you hurry round the slimy wall of the pit. Nothing strange happens and you reach the entrance of another foul tunnel in safety.
Harold: At the end of the tunnel is our means of escape.
Braggart: We're heading there I take it?
Harold: When Ausbach kidnapped me from Shandwick House, he brought me here through some kind of dimensional gateway. Follow me.
Brad: Together, you plunge down the tunnel and out into a hexagonal-shaped room. The centre of the floor is a smoking black abyss.
Harold: See? This is the dimensional gateway. We need only leap into the centre to return to England!
Brad: Without hesitating, Harod Lathers leaps into the darkness and disappears from view!
Braggart: Wait...what? So it actually was a portal gun?

Brad: For a moment you stare in disbelief, then spurred by the sound of unnatural baying and slavering from behind, you leap too! For what seems like a long time, you experience the unpleasant sensation of falling through a great soggy darkness.
Braggart: Errrrrrgh, it's weeeet...
Brad: Then suddenly, you materialise a few feet above a thatched roof.
Braggart: Bollocks!
Brad: This is like the first gate in Time Bandits, isn't it? Moments later, you extricate yourself from the wreckage and stagger through an open door into the night.
Harold Lathers stands without, nursing a bump on his head.
Harold: I don't understand...This isn't the black room at Shadwick House, nor even the grounds. We seem to have emerged in some kind of village, but it's as quiet as the grave.
Braggart: It's a trap!
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.


Many of us grew up on The Pan Book of Horror Stories and its later incarnations, Dark Voices and Dark Terrors (The Gollancz Book of Horror), which won the World Fantasy Award, the Horror Critics' Guild Award and the British Fantasy Award, but for a decade or more there has been no non-themed anthology of original horror fiction published in the mainstream. Now that horror has returned to the bookshelves, it is time for a regular anthology of brand-new fiction by the best and brightest in the field, both the Big Names and the most talented newcomers. A Book of Horrors is the foremost in the field: a collection of the very best chiller fiction, from some of the world's greatest writers.

Thanks to our friends at Jo Fletcher Books, we've got three copies of A Book of Horrors on DVD to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name and full postal address to before midday on Friday 28th October, making sure to put "Book of Horrors" as the subject. The first three entries out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a copy of this awesome book!

Don't forget to put "Book of Horrors" in the subject line. Incorrectly labelled or blank entries will be discarded.

A Book of Horrors is available now, courtesy of Jo Fletcher Books.

Entries limited to one per household. Offer open only to postal addresses in the UK and Ireland.

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