Sunday, 23 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: Mungo crashes beside you.
Mungo: Hey.
Braggart: How did you get out? I mean, Mungo! Great to see you!
Mungo: You do not want to know. Long story short, I'm down a Wisdom Tooth and up Fray Bentos pie.
Brad: You fumble in your pocket and draw out the electric torch. Its beam shines wanly as you return to the small silent cottage. The pale light reveals a grisly sight. You fell through the roof onto a bed which bears a dessicated grinning corpse! You hurry Harold away, down a narrow street bounded on either side by small silent cottages.
You are sure that behind every door lies a grisly grinning secret. To what dark domain has Ausbach's infernal gateway brought you?
Mungo: If I had to guess, I'd say it feels a bit like a Pontins.
Braggart: It's way too well kept. Stay alert.
Mungo: CenterParcs, then.

Brad: At last you step out of the narrow silent street into what appears to be a main thoroughfare. Instantly, you are dazzled by the lights of a lorry. The vehicle grinds to a halt and a tall Arab, dressed in khaki with a red fez upon his head, greets you.
Mungo: Greetings, fellow ethnic stereotype.
Arab: My friends, it is not seemly for visitors to Cairo to stroll after dark in our village of the dead.
Braggart: Shalom. Cairo?! We're in Zaire?! Ermm...I'm....dead?
Arab: Right...
Mungo: Dead stupid.
Braggart: Say, where can I find the Grand Hotel? I'm due at a haunting, and I'm going to be late!
Brad: Fade down...fade up. You awake in one of the hotel's plush bedrooms. After a hearty breakfast, you seek out Charles Petrie Heydrich and Harold Lathers.
Charles: I was intriged to hear of your unorthodox mode of transport and your ultimate destination. Perhaps this Ausbach fellow has a sense of humour?
Braggart: What, the dead thing? Or do you mean the Portal?
Charles: Now, come to the window, all three of you.
Brad: Your old friend leads you to a table, on which is spread an archaeological survey map.

Charles: As you can see, Khefu's pyramid lies only a few miles from Cairo.
Mungo: We awake in Silent Hill and you want us to move towards pyramid shaped things?
Braggart: I'm with Mungo. I dislike pyramid shaped objects at the best of times, but this is ridiculous.
Charles: I have hired a number of native guides and their camels, so we can be there by nightfall.
Mungo: Yay! More ethnic stereotypes.
Braggart: Yeah, good point, Mungo. Let's get guides who aren't from around here. Fucking brilliant.
Charles: You have been singularly unable to defeat this Ausbach by physical battle, so I have formulated a plan that depends on guile.
Mungo: Weird. I'd formulated a plan that depends on Blanka.
Braggart: Zangief here.
Harold: Vega.
Charles: Tonight, the moon completes its cycle. You will recall from the Hymn to Het, discovered in Shandwick House, that this is the best time for her servants to enter the underworld.
Braggart: Good. It'll be less moody.
Charles: Well, I am certain that Ausbach will try to enter the pyramid tonight to perform his unspeakable rites.
Brad: That phrase has always bugged me. How do you perform an unspeakable rite? Is it just mime?
Rob: Jazz hands and the rope one.
Brad: I want to pioneer ventrioloquist mime. Sitting there, having a silent conversation with a puppet. I'm pretty good so far, but you can still see my lips move occasionally.
Rob: ...Why do they move?
Brad: I don't know where this gag is going any more. It seemed like a good idea at the start.

Charles: We only need to wait until he passes into the underworld, then we can recover your pyramidion!
Brad: The sage old man slaps the table in triumph.
Harold: But how will stealing this pyramidion defeat Ausbach?
Charles: My dear fellow, the pyramidion is some kind of key which opens the dimensions. If we steal it while Ausbach is in the underworld, he will be trapped for good, entombed with the vile goddess he serves! Now, come along, the both of you.
Gather your equipment, for we leave within the hour!
Mungo: What do you mean "Both of y..." Oh, I'm fucking equipment?
Braggart: Come along, Mungo. In the bag you go.
Brad: You take this time as an opportunity to clean your pistol and reload its magazine.
Harold: Wa-hey!
Braggart: It's an actual gun, dude.
Harold: Oh.
Brad: Despite Charles' enthusiasm, travel in the heat of the Egyptian day is not advisable. You reach the crumbled spledour of Khefu's pyramid at sunset, after an uncomfortable and fly-blown journey.
Braggart: I can't believe Mungo got blown by a fly. That thing's jaw was pretty impressive, it has to be said.
Brad: However, a hearty meal eaten around a blazing camp fire soon revives your spirits. The meal over, you set a guard to watch over the pyramid's entrance, then settle down to await moon rise. Not long afterwards, the attack begins. You are sitting with your back to the pyramid, watching one of the Egyptian porters patrolling the camel lines. Suddenly, the man seems to double up, as if in pain.
Braggart: Why are there two of you?
Brad: Through the still night air, you hear a strange gobbling noise and the man disappears from view! Calling to Charles, you pull a burning brand from the fire and run to the spot.

Braggart: It's the fly! Lockjaw's back!
Mungo: What were you expecting to find? Nazgûl?
Brad: There is no sign of the porter, but the sand is pockmarked with strange circular depressions.
Mungo: *stares*
Braggart: Now I'm feeling strange circular depressions.
Charles: Most curious...And look, the camels seem untroubled.
Brad: Then, nearby, you hear a disturbing slopping noise and a monstrous toad-thing lumbers at you out of the dark!
Braggart: Toad-Thing!
Rob: Reflex Clothesline!
Brad: Wasn't there a monstrous toad in Island of the Lizard King? The thing is enormous, but semi-translucent. Large baleful eyes stare at you and a mouth, which seems to divide the creature in two, drops open to reveal rows of sharp teeth. In the creature's sag-belly you can see the floating shadow of the dead Egyptian porter.
Rob: Toads have teeth?!
Brad: I'll research. You're not a big fan of toads or frogs, are you?
Rob: Not in the slightest. Still can't go sit in our garden.
Brad: Any particular reason, or do they just freak you out?
Rob: I dunno. Might be a texture thing. Like tomatoes, don't like them either.
Brad: Research would indicate that while there are some species that don't, most frogs have teeth, whereas toads don't. Toads just have a ridge of cartilage. DDM entertains, but also educates.
Rob: Hunh. Interesting. I learned something today.
I use one of the blazing fire-brands!
Brad: You thrust the fire brand into the creature's jaws.

Braggart: Suck on that.
Brad: With a long, drawn-out, hissing sound, the creature erupts into a ball of flame! The explosion knocks you back upon the sand.
Rob: Ha! Toads also apparently have a thin coat of propane!
Charles: Of course! All toads are made helium!
Braggart: ...Really?
Charles: I mean...hydrogen. That's why I got fired from that balloon shop.
Braggart: You were selling kids toads?
Brad: Struggling to your feet, you turn to see Charles finishing another of the creatures. His gunfire tears great wounds in the creature's hide and a noisome liquid pours out. The toad-thing shrivels, crumples, then sags into a slimy membrane upon the desert sand.
Charles: I should say that Ausbach's provided us with this sport to cover his entry into the pyramid.
Brad: The veteran investigator is proved right when, a few minutes later, Harold Lathers breathlessly appears.
Harold: The guard at the pyramid has disappeared!
Braggart: You okay?
Charles: Come, we have no time to lose.
Brad: Charles hurries you back to the camp fire, then disappears into his tent.
Rob: I always feel bad for guards in situations like this.
Brad: He emerges a few moments later and thrusts a canvas package into your hand.
Charles: Here is a lantern, so much more dependable than those new-fangled electric contraptions, and some food. Now, off you go! Retrieve your pyramidion and seal Ausbach in the underworld. I am sure you will only be away for a couple of hours.
Braggart: Yeah, almost probably.


Brad: As you walk towards the pyramid, you reload your pistol.
Mungo: Shall I stay here?
Braggart: Are you kidding? I might need a sacrifice.
Mungo: Ugh.
Brad: The entrance is hidden behind an imposing façade near the east face of the pyramid. Together, you pass between the ancient columns and trek through countless rooms until you reach a crude chamber. Here, the torn body of an Arab lies on the floor and a broad flight of steps descends into the earth. Lighting the lantern, you begin your descent and Charles watches after you until you disappear from sight.
Mungo: Shame he's not coming. You'd think he'd be useful. As a matter of fact...why isn't he coming?
Braggart: Yeah, I'm not sure why he doesn't come. My guess? Coward.
Brad: As you go deeper, the air becomes colder. You find yourself in a wide passage, lined with plain stone slabs. Your footsteps echo hollowly as you march between the walls, and the lantern's light flickers in the cold gloom.
Rob: How does something echo hollowly?
Brad: "Thunk". The passage ends in a large chamber, whose walls are covered with paintings and heiroglyphics. You are faced with a choice of ways.
Rob: The middle way!
Brad: You can fork left onto the Way of the Dead, or turn right into the passage that leads up into the pyramid's Grand Gallery.
Rob: Oh. Erm...Grand Gallery.
Brad: The passage rises steadily and then opens out into the Grand Gallery. The walls are brightly painted with scenes from Khefu's life and great columns soar into the darkness overhead. Dwarfed by the scale of this gallery, you trudge up its central avenue, whilst your shadow stalks across the walls behind you. At the end of the Gallery, a huge statue rises from the floor into the shadows above.

Braggart: Fuck off, shadow!
Brad: One of its hands it turned up and outwards in warning. Or antisemitism.
I'm kidding of course. I'm sure the ancient Egyptians and the Jews were the best of friends.
Rob: Yeah, they worked together on tons of stuff.
Brad: Between the statue's feet is a low archway that leads to the King's Chamber.
Rob: I examine the pictures on the statue's legs. I'm sure this won't be crazy-inducing.
Brad: On the right leg a series of pictures show the mummification of Khefu's body; on the left leg is his soul, in the guise of a human-headed bird, is shown leaving the mummy and flying from the pyramid. But the soul does not fly up into the sun.
Rob: Where does it fly?
Brad: It flies across a dark pit and in its claws it carries a triangle that glows.
Mungo: Could this be a reference to the pyramidion?
Brad: Looking closer, you see something has been inscribed on the triangle, but centuries of decay have blurred it beyond recognition. However, you do notice that the pit is filled with monstrous creatures, like great jelly-fish, that are beckoning to the triangle.
Braggart: They must like that.
Rob: I pass beneath the archway.
Mungo: You didn't much fancy the sound of the Way of Death, then?
Braggart: You know, I'm not so interested in that.
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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