Sunday 3 October 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 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 Clive & Ian Bailey gamebook Where the Shadows Stalk. Brad is the DM, and Rob plays his character, Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones.

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Dude, I hate to break it to you but you're not me. See? Here's me talking to you, who is not me. With me so far?

Brad: With a hoarse cry, the creature jumps at you, flinging its vicious talons round your neck!
Rob: I give it a horse cry back!

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Think you can beat me? I say...Neigh!

Brad: You have met not a man, but a changeling - and you must fight it for your life. The changeling is trying to throttle you.

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: But....I''

Brad: With a wrench, you break the creature's stranglehold.

Redshirt: Good thing I always carry this wrench.

Rob: I attack it with my knobkerrie!

Running Combat:
It dodges your knobkerrie.
It punches Redshirt in the balls.
You knob it in the kerrie.

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Ouch, at least that helps if we need a eunuch sacrificed.

You tell it it's Welsh.

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Is that like being adopted then? A shock to the system?

You tell it all the reasons why Star Wars: Dark Empire is overrated.

Rob: Name one.
Brad: It's really hard to whittle it down to just one.
Rob: ...Try.
Brad: The complete lack of reasoning behind why Luke turns to the Dark Side.
"I'll never become like my father."
"I'll give you spaceships."
"Yeah, all right then."
Rob: Mm...I suppose I can see the logic there.
LUKE: Is my collar high enough?
Rob: Those world devastators fuck up the Mon Cal, nobody's done that better since...Daala...with normal Star Destroyers...Fine, point taken.
Brad: Palpatine - the greatest Sith who ever lived - dying in a fat man.
Rob: *Spoiler alert*
Brad: When Han shoots the clone Emperor, all I can hear in my head is Vyvan on University Challenge screaming "Right! I'm bloody sick of this!". And...No Thrawn.
Rob: This is true. Anyway, what does this cripple tree do to me in return for this tirade?
Brad: You tread on its neck, and it is defeated.
Rob: Wow, he really didn't have an answer for that one, did he?

Chemise-Rouge: Legacy FTW, bitch.

Brad: The creature emits a final hoarse grunt and collapses.

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Whinny, Houston!

Brad: As you watch, its vegetable sinews and fray. The leafy face blisters and yellows, then crumbles into dust. Mildew and slime consume the body and you are wreathed in a noxious stench of decay. Something filmy flows from the corpse and whispers away through the hedgerow. Once again you are alone on the road to Bryn Coedwig.

Chemise-Rouge: Ahem. What's this "alone" crap? We're right here.

Brad: Did you imagine this dreadful experience? Two throbbing weals on your neck testify that you did not.
Rob: Is Bryn Coedwig Welsh for "Silent Hill"?
Brad: Possibly. Do we know anyone who can speak Welsh?
You pick up your bag and hurry on towards your destination. As you trudge into Bryn Coedwig, the long shadows of dusk envelop the valley. Your destination is Petrie-Heydrich's sprawling cottage, known locally as the manor. You knock at the door. Almost immediately, it is opened by your friend, Lucy.

Braggard Smith-Rhys-Jones: Superb, there's Bang-Candy.

Brad: Wow...I don't think we've had a feminine lead character before. Max was a little bit too Xena...Lucy works, I guess. New Dickass DM Character, everyone!
Rob: Don't get ahead of yourself. This one could be a lezzer.
Brad: She gives you a temendous hug, then leads you into a crowded parlour and invites you to take a seat by the fire.

Lucy: I apologise for my father's abscence. He is incapacitated with an ague, and was forced to retire early.
Braggard Smith-Rhys-Jones: Not a problem...heh...heh...heh...

Brad: She gives you a steaming tea and a bowl of broth.

Lucy: How was your journey?
Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Long and virile. I talked to this tree. But it wouldn't listen to me. Then it tried to choke me, so I beat it to death.

Brad: Lucy listens intently to your story but, to your surprise, shows no sign of being disturbed by any of the strange events that have befallen you. Nervously you remark upon her composure and she smiles grimly.

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Is it wrong that her grim smile gives me wood?
Lucy: The village has been plagued by a whole series of inexplicable events since the mist descended. Machinery has persistently failed, freak storms and earth tremors have battered the village, and a number of strange hauntings have been reported to my father.

Brad: When you have finished your supper, Lucy suggests that you might care to retire and leads you up to her father's study where a camp bed has been set up for your use.

Redshirt: Just one bed, eh? Are we fucking invisible?
Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: It's either that or I bang her on your head. Your choice.

Brad: What do you want to do?
Rob: I'm going to explore Charles' study. I'm sure I won't find anything insanity-inducing in there.

Chemise-Rouge: You said that about the hedge!

Rob: The fourth wall is seeping again.
Brad: By the flickering light of your candle, you survey the room. Petrie-Heydrich is a well-known explorer and antiquarian. His study is lined with books on Mythology, folk-tales and arcane magic. The room is dominated by a large desk, on top of which lies a battered journal.
Rob: I examine the journal. It'd be pointless to come this far and not read it.
Brad: Carefully, you turn the journal's brittle pages. The book records the everyday observations of someone called George Cripps, engineer to the Bryn Coedwig quarry and mine during the 1880s. The last few entries in the journal particularly catch your attention; the exhibit a peculiar deterioration in Cripps' handwriting, from neat copperplate to a distracted scrawl.

Here is what you read:

23rd March 1884
...The house is severly damaged, one corner is completely collapsed and a portion of the roof also.

Rob: So that thing about being untouched by the twentieth century is actually bollocks then.

Every dwelling at Bryn Coedwig has suffered more or less from the tremors. Of course, the superstitious amongst the villagers attribute our discomfort to an ancient curse. It is, however, clear to any educated person that we have been the victims of an earthquake...

25th March 1884
...For the first time since the disaster I have inspected the mine. Incredibly, it is completely untouched (and the natural caverns also, so far as I could tell). Yet I did not, could not, explore the new lode, for some creeping terror came upon me. It was as if something watched me from beyond the radiance of my lamp...

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Probably a tree...

26th March 1884
...An air of oppression has fallen over the village. Mechanical things have ceased to function (although my watch began again this morning).

Rob: What's with the ... at the beginning? Does he take a breath for dramatic effect?

Those people who have tried to leave Bryn Coedwig have returned hours later confused and shaken, quite unable to explain what has befallen them.

27th March 1884
...I have seen them: abominable tentacled things, undreamed of by mortal man.

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Superb. Just what we need.

Somehow they and their menagerie of creatures that slither and crawl have been let loose amongst us. The miners and quarrymen are in their power and would have torn me limb from limb today had I not fought like a tiger and escaped to the village...

29th March 1884
...It is a week since the earthquake, yet no help has reached us from the outside world.

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Was he expecting a jet?

Villagers have disappeared up Quarry Valley, the farmer of Ratgoed has been losing sheep to monstrous creatures, and I myself have suffered nocturnal visitation by snuffling things...

Chemise-Rouge: Itchy...tasty...

31st March 1884
...Tonight I am resolved to act. I intend to enter the mine and seal the new lode, for that is where the creatures lurk. To that end, I have gathered together some equipment that I think may be effective in dealing with their terror: bags of common salt, several bottles of lamp oil, a container of sulphuric acid. my service revolver, and a rubber chicken with a pulley in the middle. I have also acquired several sticks of dynamite...

Brad: You notice that there are no further entries after 31st March.
Rob: So...salt, oil, acid and chicken. I need to make some sort of casserolle?
Brad: You return to your bed and, as you sleep, you dream.
You are standing alone upon a patch of grass, surrounded by a sea of white mist. Something brushes across your shoulder and you turn to face the cowled figure of an old man who bears a great spear. A foreign mind penetrates your own, sifting through your memories, supressing your thoughts, until only one idea remains - to follow the stranger! Involuntarily, you step forward and follow him into the depths of the mist.
I'd trust Omer as a spirit guide, wouldn't you?
Rob: Totally.
Brad: You are led into a ruined village, to halt beneath a gnarled and ancient oak tree. The old man turns to you:

Omer: For centures I, Omer the GenericpaganfigureasrequiredbyDickassDM, have slept beneath the Welsh hills, waiting for a time of need. That time has now come and I have chosen you as my champion.
Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Cool.
Omer: A great evil stalks the valley of Bryn Coedwig, threatening the world of men. We stand in the borderlands between the living and the dead, between waking and sleep. Here, I will summon the wild hunt, spirit warriors long dead. You must face them alone.

Rob: This sounds like a prog album.

Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: As if I'd do anything else...Guys, look inconspicuous.
Redshirt: Uh, you're dreaming. We're not here.
Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Oh yeah.
Omer: If you triumph, I will bind them to you so they may serve you in your hour of need. If you fail, your very soul will be their booty. Wait for the hunt beneath the oak, for it is a symbol of protection.
Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Righto.

Brad: Omer hands you his great spear and turns to leave. Do you want to risk shattering the dream by asking a question, or accept your fantastic task? The book actually uses the word "fantastic" in the option. Because "fabulous task" wasn't gay enough.
Rob: Accept the homotastic task.

Omer: Guard my spear well, for it is a spirit blade, and your only means to defeat the dead.
Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: I'll be fine thanks, transcendent being.
Omer: Now, I leave you to your destiny.
Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones: Cheers.


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