Friday 29 January 2010

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 an 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 Keith Martin Fighting Fantasy gamebook Vault of the Vampire.

Brad is the GM, and Rob plays his character, Abraham Van Bragging.

Brad: Rumours of great wealth and treasure have lured you west of Femphrey in the Old World, to the forbidding land of Mauristatia, home of the unscalable peaks clad in ice and snow, obscured by great swathes of freezing mist. The air is cold and damp, and you are dressed in furs to keep out the chill.
Rob: What kind of furs? Bear? Vole?
Brad: Do you have a particular preference?
Rob: Ferret.
Brad: Hunched in a swaying coach heading north towards Mortvania, you wonder whether any of the rumours you have heard have any truth in them; people hereabouts are poorly fed and clothed, and this hardly seems a place of great riches! Still, perhaps that means that the treasures are still hidden and that the local folk haven't found them...

Van Bragging: Hmm, these people look slightly dull, hopefully the treasures are still buried deep, like these people's latent psychic abilities.

Brad: You are aroused.
Rob: It's the pleats on my trousers, it's an optical illusion.
Brad: from your reverie as the coach creaks to a halt. The coachmen open the doors and begin lowering trunks and bags from the roof.

Van Bragging: I don't even remember packing half this stuff.

Brad: You step out into a murky twilight; a thick winter fog is drawing in round the little coaching village of Leverhelven where you will rest tonight. The tavern is small and hardly luxurious, but the food is hot and the mulled wine is spiced and refreshing.
Rob: Surely the mulled wine would be hot as well?
Brad: But the local people, wary of strangers, talk little; after you enter, the tavern door is barred and the windows are already shuttered. The place has a strange name: The Hart's Blood - but this doesn't look like hunting country, except for those seeking bears or wolves for their pelts.
Rob: Bret "The Hitman" is probably wounded...
Brad: See, that was nice. You could have gone for an Owen gag there, but you showed class.
Rob: Or even Stu. Or Davey-Boy.
Brad: Or Jim The Anvil. No, wait. He's still alive. Although if Bret's bleeding from anywhere, it's from his integrity, right now. You ask the tavern-keeper how the inn got its name, and a deathly hush descends in the room. The tavern-keeper turns away, refusing to speak to you; you wonder how a polite and innocent question can have made him react in such a way. What's more, a man sitting by the fire turns round - and spits at your feet!

Van Bragging: Dude, these shoes are brand new, I bought them for the journey!

Brad: An old woman swathed in shawls and a peasant smock looks over at you.

Old Woman: Furriners don't know no better.

Brad: You take her over a drink and ask her to tell you more - at least she's talking to you, which is more friendly than anyone else in here is. She gulps greedily at the supposedly warm wine.

Old Woman: Tain't no "Hart's Blood", stranger. Were never called that 'til they changed the sign outside. 'Tis the heart's Blood, see, h-e-a-r-t.
Van Bragging: Ahhhh, I see. Was it a Furriner who wrote the sign for you?
Old Woman: That's what too many folk round 'ere has given up, their 'eart's blood!

Brad: The low murmur of voices that had begun once more is completely silenced. Many people are casting fierce looks at you and the old woman and the barman bellows at her to be silent. But her face is flushed with the warmth and the wine, and she says she will not be unheard.

Van Bragging: Yeah, what harm came from listening to a drunk? Pipe down, dickface!
Old Woman: 'Tis the Count, damn his black heart; folk vanish from the village, they do, and are never seen again. The Count takes them up to the castle, to be sure, and there they die a terrible death. Terrible!
Van Bragging: What does he need to be sure of?
Old Woman: There's folk as have heard the screams from the place, screams as from the souls in hell itself. Didn't her take my grand-daugher only yesterday? Didn't we see the coach and the headless horseman in the village?

Van Bragging: Jesus, I understand why you're getting shit-faced.
Old Woman: My poor little Nastassia, such a beautiful, gentle girl, taken by the fiend 'imself, and not a man in this godforsaken place brave enough to go to the castle and save her!

Brad: Embarrassed voices murmer round the room as sparks fly from the fire; the crackling of the burning wood seems to emphasise the old woman's desperate plea.

Old Woman: I beg you, sir, to rescue her. She is only seventeen and she 'as done no harm to anyone..."
Van Bragging: What else...hasn't she done? I'm just thinking that depending on your answer, I may not ask for a reward...Or at least, not a financial one.

Brad: A tall, red-haired man gets up from a table opposite and approaches you; you see he has only one arm, the right sleeve of his tunic being pinned up to his chest.

One Armed Man: Stranger, I take you for a wanderer, a seeker after adventurer. What old Svetlana says is true: the Count is a terrible and evil soul, and Castle Heydrich is a place of horror. I would have tried to slay him myself, but for one obvious reason -
Van Bragging: You're a thief by trade? A one-armed...bandit?
One Armed Man: Will you help us? From my own days as a...bandit...I have some gold put by, and it's yours if you will help.

Brad: The eyes of all present turn to you, imploring your assistance.

Van Bragging: I'll expect a run of three gold bars, Mr One-Armed Bandit. Or at least three lemons.

Brad: You are about to nod your agreement to this proposal when the door of the tavern bursts open.
Rob: The Kool-Aid man? Oh yeaaah!
Brad: The people inside cry out in fear as an icy blast whips through the room. Outside in the mist you can make out a black coach with four jet-black steeds prancing and whinnying, and in the doorway stands a spectral figure.

Van Bragging: I can understand why you pansies haven't gone, if a breeze creeps you...what the fuck is that?!

Brad: Bony fingers extend from black sleeves, and he beckons - you! But he says nothing - how could he? He has no head...You follow the beckoning figure outside into the swirling mists. It leaps up to the driver's seat of the black coach and the carriage's door swings open. The steeds prance expectantly, their breath steaming in the cold air
Rob: I get into the coach.
Brad: What can possibly go wrong, right?
Rob: Well, after that time I almost missed a plot hook in Call of Cthulhu, I'm not taking any chances.
Brad: You clamber into the coach, and the horses set off at a gallop - making no sound as they move! You settle back into a comfortable seat draped in black. Looking through the heavy purple-curtained windows, you see nothing outside but thick swirling fog, but the wolf-howls you hear send shivers down your spine.
Rob: Why is it comfortable? You'd think that someone with no head wouldn't be too concerned by the neck support.
Brad: Suddenly you feel a chill inside the carriage and there, slowly appearing before you, is a ghost!

Van Bragging: I wish I'd brought a change of trousers. I feel they'll be necessary.

Brad: The spectral shape of a tall man with wavy black hair and green eyes, his figure almost covered by a voluminous black and purple cloak sits smiling opposite you.

Ghost (smirking): The count is expecting you, although your stay will be a very short one, I fear.
Van Bragging: Ghosts fear? Bollocks.

Brad: He sits back and continues to smile in a leering, mocking way. Then the carriage lurches abruptly, and the ghostly apparition springs forward at you!

Van Bragging: Ha, Ghosts can fall? Nice.

Brad: The spectral creature lunges at you, but his hands stop short of your neck and he hisses in frustration. Your Faith has protected you from his attack!

Van Bragging: Good thing I believe in Christ.

Brad: You continue your journey safely until the coach stops at the foot of a hill and you descend; the coach races off into the heavy mists and is soon out of site. You walk along as far as the base of a narrow trail which leads up a steep incline, and suddenly you walk out of the fog into a completely clear area. Starkly illuminated by the three-quarter moon stands the brooding Castle Heydrich! Dun-dun dun!
Rob: I’m going to walk around the outside to scope the place out.
Brad: Casing the joint, huh?
Rob: Never know if you might have to loot in a hurry.
Brad: You skirt carefully the round the building. You have approached from the south, and can make out some features of what seems to be a two storey-building. In the south-west and south-east corners are the towers, whose spires loom the slate roofs over the stone walls. Bats flit into and out of the south-west tower belfry. The arrow slits in the towers are too high and narrow to climb in through. Nice try. You can see lights on the ground floor from windows in the west and east sides, but heavy drapes prevent you from seeing anything within the castle itself.
Rob: Fair enough.
Brad: Although there is a quality of indescribable evil about the castle, you can also sense some powerful good in the place. A bit like Darth Vader.
Rob: Huh, that's handy to know if my father turns out to live in the castle.
Brad: From the centre of the north wall there is something - is it magic, perhaps? Since you can't get into this part of the castle directly, you'll have to enter the main gates to find out.
Rob: Okay, let's do that then.
Brad: You put your shoulder to the heavy wooden gates, and they open with a creak that sets your nerves on edge. You walk through a small entrance area into a large courtyard. Facing you, you observe great brass decorated doors across the courtyard and past the entrance to what looks like a family crypt. There are also two doors to the West of you, and a door just round the corner which opens into a southern part of the main building.
Rob: I try the brass doors to the north.
Brad: You push open the brass doors and walk into a well-lit entrance hall which is deserted. Floor mosaics and wall-hangings of plain black and red give the chamber a sombre appearance, and for a moment you think you heard a faint moaning sound...There are three exits from the hall: north, east and west.
Rob: East.
Brad: This is basically a sarcastic text adventure from your point of view, isn't it?
Rob: Essentially, yeah.
Brad: Along the Eastern passageway there is a door to the North, and the passageway turns south just beyond it; there is another door facing you at the junction of the east and south corridors.
Rob: North door.
Brad: You walk through into a lounge, with richly imported carpets of intricate design, sumptuously comfortable armchairs, and tables bearing silverware and lace.
Rob: Looty looty...
Brad: There are three gilt-framed paintings on the east wall, and you decide to go over and look at them. One shows a tall, handsome man with black hair tapering to a peak over his forehead and deep green eyes; the plaque below reads "Count Reiner Heydrich". The second shows a strikingly attractiveyoung woman with flowing curly black hair and the same striking green eyes; she is wearing a black flowing dress and emerald jewellery. The plaque below this picture reads, "Katarina Heydrich”. The third painting has no plaque and has been defaced, although you can see that it once showed an exceptionally tall, smooth-faced blonde man. Unfortunately your gaze dwells too long on the portrait of the Count, and its eyes burn into you, holding you fascinated. The eyes of the portrait turn red and blood begins to seep from the canvas! This is certainly unnerving, but you overcome your fear.
Rob: How odd. Oh, well. I search the room.
Brad: You find a silver bracelet behind a cushion. This worth 3 Gold Pieces.

**Van Bragging has acquired Silver Bracelet**

Brad: You leave the room and return to the corridor outside.
Rob: I open the door at the east end.
Brad: In a cockney voice.
Rob: Luvva duck.
Brad: Opening the door, you hear sizzling and spitting noises. Peering carefully round the half-open door, you see an extraordinary assembly of vessels, jars, containers and instruments of brass, iron and glass standing on tables and shelves. Oil burners keep vessels of cloudy bubbling liquids on the boil, and there is a strange, metallic acid smell. A bit like quim.
Rob: Really? Oil burners and all? I must be doing it wrong.
Brad: Watching you closely is a small, green, winged humanoid creature sitting on a shelf on the wall; it is playing with a small bronze wand which sparkles and crackles.

Van Bragging: Hello there...
Little Creature: Have you come to see my master?
Van Bragging: Let's go with yes.
Little Creature: Well, don't just stand there, go on in!
Van Bragging: “In”?
Little Creature: Hes not too busy - I'm sure the potions will soon be ready.
Van Bragging: "Potions”?

Brad: You realise that this is an alchemist's laboratory, and that the small winged creature is a magical creature - a homunculus.
Rob: I thought he looked gay.
Brad: It gestures you to a door to the south, which you open. You enter a large room filled with all sorts of strange equipment: tables and chairs showing the planets in the heavens, varieties of herbs, rock formations, and lots else besides. All this is strewn over benches and desks, pinned to the walls, and even scattered over the floor!

Van Bragging: Ah, scientists, those notoriously messy beasts.

Rob: Have I taken this homonucleus with me?
Brad: Can you feel him squeezing your butt?
Rob: I'm glad it's him, I was afraid this game was about to get rapey.
Brad: Sitting at one desk is a white haired, tall, thin man with pince-nez glasses perched precariously on his beaked nose; he is poring over some intricate diagrams and muttering to himself.

Old Man: Er, pleased to meet you, I suppose. I am Karl-Heinz Matthaus, Alchemist-In-Residence. Something I can do for you?
Van Bragging: Hello...

Brad: He appears unarmed and looks a kindly old man. He looks back at his work, clearly not interested in you.
Rob: I try and engage him in conversation. I think I could break him by looking at him, so I'm loathe to attack.
Brad: The alchemist says little, although he does tell you that he is employed by Katarina - the Count's sister - to prepare potions and powders which enable her to keep her youthful appearance, together with another treatment, which Karl-Heinz seems deliberately to avoid mentioning.

Karl-Heinz: Katarina looks very young for a woman of seventy six.
Van Bragging: I'd do her.

Brad: You can't really ask about the count and how to kill him (Karl-Heinz might tell someone what you're up to!) and there's little else you can get out of him. You leave through the west door in this room. Back in the corridor, you can open a door on the west side, opposite the Alchemist's room, or go to the far southern end of the passage and open the door there.
Rob: I go through the door opposite his room.
Brad: Think that's his secret stash, huh? You open the door into a suite of rooms that are cluttered with cushions, papers, toys, pictures and all sorts of debris strewn all over the place!
Rob: Toys?
Brad: Marching up and down, clad in an ill-fitting blue military uniform and with a ridiculous tricorn hat is a dishevelled young man with long, flowing black hair and green eyes.
Rob: Hunh...
Brad: He mutters nonsensically to himself, and does not seem to have noticed you enter. He certainly seems rather lacking in his wits.
Rob: I try and talk with him.
Brad: You are in luck. Wilhelm Heydrich, the poor idiot cousin of the Count, is fairly lucid today. He is happy to have a guest and soon you are drinking Analandian sherry as Wilhelm talks about his cousin.

Wilhelm: He won't have a mirror in the place, will he? He's terrified of a silver mirror! I've no idea why.
Van Bragging: Does he have shit hair?
Wilhelm: There's one in the relaxation room just beyond the dining room, and you'll never find Reiner lurking in there, oh no!

Brad: He gulps greedily at the fortified wine.
Rob: Carl Reiner is here?
Brad: Rob.
Rob: Yes?

Wilhelm: And, then, old Siegfried's stuff frightens the living daylights out of him - well, it's not quite the living daylights, is it? The sword, you know, he's especially frightened of that. Hid it himself after he did away with Siegfried, in a book, believe it or not.

Brad: I smell a horcrux...

Wilhelm: Don't know about the armour. But he took the shield up into the tower, down there -

Brad: He points to the corridor. Wilhelm is drinking heavily now and beginning to ramble, so you say goodbye to him and leave. Back in the corridor, you decide to check the tower and the shield Wilhelm mentioned, so you go to the south end of it and open the door on the east side there. Still alive?
Rob: Yeah. Being alive is a little surprising in one of these books
Brad: You open the door and a dark, musty odour of stale air greets you.
Rob: How amazing would it be if the odour ACTUALLY greeted me?
Brad: You must use your lantern to see, and now you realise that you are at the foot of the south-east tower.
Rob: Towers...with feet? This world is bizarre...
Brad: Drifting into the chamber from a grille set into the floor is a smoky, apparitional figure radiating a hideous chilly malice - a Wraith!

Provocative, compelling and underscored with hard-hitting action, the pulse-pounding thriller, The Shinjuku Incident explodes with tension and delivers a career-defining performance from international action-superstar, Jackie Chan.
 Coming to Blu-ray and to DVD as a two-disc Ultimate Edition featuring a host of extras, including behind the scenes featurettes, cast interviews and deleted scenes, this is a must-have for Jackie Chan fans and lovers of action cinema.

Hundreds of Chinese refugees wash up on Japan’s Wakasa Bay. Each has a dream of a better life, but most will encounter only prejudice and oppression. One, a law-abiding farm-worker known as Steelhead (Jackie Chan), has come to find the woman he has loved since childhood, but his quest ends in bitter rejection when he discovers she has married Yakuza underboss, Eguchi.

Heartbroken, his life descends into darkness and petty crime quickly escalates to murder. With blood on his hands, he will risk everything to secure a future for his people, as they face an increasingly brutal onslaught from a criminal empire protected by a secret code. However, ancient traditions will not be broken and his defiance will lead to all-out war as both factions fight for control of the infamous Shinjuku district in the heart of Japan’s greatest city.

Ultimately pursued by forces on both sides of the law, Steelhead must fight for redemption and the survival of those he loves in the darkest night he has ever known...

The Shinjuku Incident is radical, uncompromising cinema with the most unforgettable finale of any Jackie Chan film to date!
SEGA® Europe ltd. and SEGA® of America Inc. today announced that the classic arcade game After Burner™ has now returned for a new generation of gamers. After Burner Climax™ features fast and frantic feats, putting you in the cockpit of the world’s top fighter jets. Players will dodge planes, rockets and bullets while trying to target multiple on-screen enemy aircraft. Built for all skill levels, everyone will be able to take to the air and blaze through a branching storyline with over 20 stages. After Burner Climax will be available for download on Xbox LIVE® Arcade for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft® and on PlayStation® Store for the PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system.

Developed by SEGA’s AM2 division, famous for titles such as Virtua Fighter™ and Outrun™, After Burner Climax is based on the latest arcade version in the franchise. Players will square off against a plethora of AI opponents as they dodge, shoot, and barrel roll their way to victory in a variety of the game’s environments. With the Climax Mode, players can activate slow motion, which makes avoiding rockets and bullets easier, and increasing accuracy whilst aiming for those harder to hit targets.

In other news, the classic After Burner: Black Falcon for PlayStation Portable® will be available for download via the PlayStation® Store on the 4th of February. This adaptation is compatible with all PSP versions, including PSP Go. Fly nineteen different real-world officially licensed jets during the course of the game’s 24 supersonic missions, and double the firepower in 2 player co-op mode.

After Burner Climax will be available for download on Xbox LIVE® Arcade and PlayStation® Store in Spring 2010. AfterBurner: Black Falcon is available on PlayStation Store from the 4th of February.


  1. Hurrah! Dickass DM is BACK! Great stuff, guys.

    With mentions of Svetlana and then lemons, I was wondering if you were going for a Joanna Newsom reference...

  2. Dickass DM is back...fortnightly.